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Anthony Barr Evolving into Vocal Leader on Vikings Defense

MANKATO, Minn. — Anthony Barr has always been one to let his play do the talking.

And with Chad Greenway the clear-cut leader of the linebackers room before he retired this spring, Barr hasn't needed to be a rah-rah guy to produce on the field.

But now that Barr ranks first among Vikings linebackers with 42 career starts, coaches and players have turned to him to be more vocal on the field and in meetings.

"He's a fourth-year guy now, and he's one of the veterans on the defense," said Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer. "He's calling the huddle, so naturally people are going to look to him.

"I've told him, 'We need to start developing your leadership skills,' especially without having Chad here anymore," Zimmer added. "I think he's taken that on himself, and he's been really good with it. I don't think it's the most natural thing for him, but he's starting to get it and starting to like doing it." 

The soft-spoken Barr isn't one to go on a soliloquy during interviews. He prefers to put in his work and move onto the next task of the day.

But he admitted after Thursday's walk-through practice that he's trying to be heard more on the field, even if he doesn't think he was born to be a great orator.

"I try to communicate as best as possible try to get everybody on the same page," Barr said. "I do what the defense asks me to do. Sometimes that's be vocal, sometimes it's a whole bunch of other different things. When those times come up, I try to make it a point to (speak up) and do it the best I can. 

"Chad was a very vocal guy regardless of the situation," Barr added. "I'm pretty quiet by nature, so I try when I'm asked to be more vocal. I feel like I'm doing a better job of that." 

The ninth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Barr was the first player taken after Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer arrived in Minnesota.

The former UCLA standout made an impact as a rookie, racking up 99 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) with 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

His signature moment came in Week 8 at Tampa Bay where he forced and recovered a fumble in overtime before galloping 27 yards for the game-winning score in a 19-13 victory.

Barr's sophomore season saw him make his first Pro Bowl after he had 80 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He had highlight reel plays such as an effort-filled forced fumble in Atlanta and picking off Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for his first-career interception.

The California native made his second straight Pro Bowl in 2016 after recording 91 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) with 2.0 sacks with a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Because Barr's potential is so high, Adam Zimmer said there is room for improvement in 2017. But he downplayed the notion that the outside linebacker didn't help the Vikings last season.

"First of all, saying he had a bad year last year is false," Adam Zimmer said. "I've got a ton of plays (on tape) where he made a bunch of good plays. He just didn't make the splash plays like an interception against Peyton Manning.

"He's focused on making those and has had an outstanding camp so far. He's on a mission. I think he wants to be the best linebacker in the league, and that's how he's practiced," Zimmer added. "We've got him doing a lot of different things, and I think it's going to be an outstanding year for him."

Barr said earlier this spring that he was focused on being more locked in this season. But if he does make more splash plays, don't expect Barr to boast about them.

"Just getting to the ball more," Barr said. "The play doesn't even necessarily have to come my way, it's just finding the ball and getting to the ball and making plays. I'm just trying to be the best player I can be.

"I'm understanding kind of where I am as a football player and as a person. I feel good with where I'm at," Barr added. "I have a long ways to go, but I feel good with the progress I've made from last year to this year."

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