EAGAN, Minn. – Anthony Barr is hopeful he'll be back on the field Sunday.
If the linebacker does participate in the Vikings-Lions matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time Barr plays in a game in 385 days.
"Excited to get back out there and help the team," Barr told Twin Cities media members Wednesday. "There will be a lot of emotions, but at the end of the day, just got to do my job and help the team win."
Barr said the nagging knee injury he's been dealing with this summer and fall feels "a lot better."
He knew he wouldn't go last week against Cleveland, saying he wasn't yet confident enough in his conditioning and how he felt physically. But with this third week of practice now underway, Barr is optimistic that Sunday will be the day.
He explained his thought process in previous weeks after he had been listed as questionable for last Sunday's game against Cleveland.
"I'm at the point of my career where I'm comfortable being honest with myself. What's the point of lying about it when I know I'm not ready?" Barr said. "Yeah, it sucks I can't be out there and I'd love to help, but I don't think I'd be doing anything that would make us better. I'd probably be a liability out there.
"That would be selfish if I were to go out there and try to take away from somebody that's more capable at that point in time," he continued. "I'm definitely comfortable communicating, 'This is the situation, it kind of is what it is. I promise you I'm trying to do everything I can to get back on the field and when that time comes, I'll be the first one out there.' "
The Vikings are well-familiar with Barr's skill set and what he brings to the defense; conversely, he's well-versed in Minnesota's defensive system. After all, he was the first player selected after Mike Zimmer became the head coach in 2014.
Jumping back into an NFL game isn't as easy as riding a bike, per se, but he remains sure of himself.
"There are more intricacies to it than that, but I'm confident," Barr said. "I've done it for a decent amount of time. I know what to do and how to prepare – and what I've got to do to get ready."
Last season, Barr suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 against the Colts that sidelined him for the rest of the 2020 campaign. He returned to practice this spring during Organized Team Activities, minicamp and the beginning of training camp before encountering the knee injury.
It's hard enough mentally to sit out one season; being unable to start a second one – for an entirely new issue – can be even more defeating.
View photos of Vikings players from practice on Oct. 6 at the TCO Performance Center.
Barr acknowledged the past year has been challenging.
"Mental health is a real thing. I've had my down days, down moments, but fortunately I have a great support system with my family and friends," Barr said. "I think realizing there's a lot more to life than football. It's been my life since I was 9 years old, so not having that part of it was tough.
"I promise you, nobody wants to play more than me. It's all I want to do," Barr added. "So, I'm just happy to be at a point where I can finally do that again. I think my mind is following; it was suffering with my body. I think being able to get everything on track, take a deep breath, and I feel a lot better about everything."
It may be true that nobody wants Barr back on game days more than Barr – but his coaches and teammates are likely next in line.
"He's a smart player. I think he's a versatile player," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "He's a great leader on the defense; he can play a lot of roles on the defense. I think it helps with the scheme … and the production. It probably helps the other guys feel comfortable when he's out there."
Vikings Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Andre Patterson emphasized Barr's multifaceted on-field impact.
"Number one, his leadership is going to help us," Patterson said. "He's a calming influence in the huddle. The offense has to account for him, so that's gonna help us, too.
"And then we have to make sure we keep our eyes on him, and that we don't overplay him," Patterson added. "We understand that it's his first time playing in a while. When there's a new toy out there, a good player, you want to ride him until the wheels fall off. But we can't do that. We have to make sure we're smart with him."
In Barr's absence, the Vikings have started Eric Kendricks, Nick Vigil and Blake Lynch in their base 4-3 defense with Kendricks and Vigil being the linebackers in Minnesota's nickel package.
Barr has traditionally worn the "green dot" on his helmet for the Vikings, meaning he's the one defensive player with a headset and ability to receive calls from the sideline before relaying them to teammates. Vigil has taken over the role thus far this season.
It's unknown at this point if Barr will reassume the green dot responsibilities right away. Either way, though, he expects Vigil to continue playing a substantial role in the Vikings defense.
"He's still going to play. He'll definitely get his reps," Barr said of Vigil. "He's a great player, he's been doing a great job. I'm just here to do my job – it's not a one-guy type of deal. It takes 11 of us going out there to be successful. Just trying to get people on the same page, continue playing hard, and I think we'll find success."
Now in his eighth season with the Vikings, Barr has been through plenty of ups and downs with the team. He's been a part of teams that struggled for multiple parts of a season, as well as teams that found their footing and got to the playoffs.
Minnesota certainly is sitting in a less-than-ideal spot at 1-3, but Barr isn't giving up hope on this year's group.
"You look around, and we've got a lot of talented guys. It's really just about coming together, not letting the defense play good one game, the offense playing good one game, special teams, all that," Barr said. "We've got to do this thing. Everybody's got to do their job all the time. It's got to be a collective effort.
"A play here or there, we're having a whole different discussion," he added. "So I think it's really all about perspective and understanding we've got a lot of football left to play."