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Anthony Barr: Raising His Own 'Barr'


The Vikings led by four points with just over two minutes remaining in the first half in their Week 1 opener against New Orleans. 

The Saints faced third-and-2 at their own 33-yard line and were looking to put a drive together that both ended in points and used up the rest of the clock. 

Anthony Barr was having none of that.

When New Orleans tried a quick swing pass in the backfield to Alvin Kamara, the Vikings linebacker already had the speedy rookie running back in his sights and wrapped him up for a 6-yard loss.

Barr's big play forced a punt and allowed Minnesota's offense to take the field. The Vikings would score on a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Bradford to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with just two ticks left on the clock, giving Minnesota a double-digit lead on the way to a 29-19 season-opening victory.

The noticeable change in momentum was set up by Barr using his athleticism and football IQ.

"I realized it was third-and-short, so I was trying to be tight in coverage. You prepare for a run, but he ended up releasing into the flat," Barr said. "I matched him out there and had to make the play.

"I was on it quickly, and we were able to give the offense the ball back before the half so they could go down and score," Barr added. "That kind of changed the momentum of the game a little bit. The game is all about possession, so you want to get as many as you can, especially the way our offense was playing."

Fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks said he could sense a momentum swing when Barr was credited with his only tackle for loss of the night.

"Anytime we're off on third down and it's a tackle for loss, you can just feel it," Kendricks said of Barr's takedown. "I'm sure everyone was celebrating on defense because we're off the field. It's huge momentum leading into an offensive possession, and any time we can get a negative play, it's big."

Barr finished the night with eight total tackles (according to coaches' tally) and helped Minnesota stuff the Saints ground game while limiting prolific New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees through the air.

With another NFC South opponent on tap Sunday, Barr's splashy play against the Saints brought to mind another highlight-reel play against the Buccaneers in 2014.

Overtime between the Vikings and Buccaneers lasted just one play in that Week 8 matchup. Barr stripped the ball away from former Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins before scooping it up and racing 27 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 19-13 Minnesota win.

Was that one of the biggest highlights of Barr's four-year career?

"Definitely one of them," Barr said. "Hopefully we can make that happen again.

"That was a big play for us to win the game," Barr added.

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Barr made his mark in his rookie season by essentially single-handedly giving the Vikings a win over Tampa Bay.

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, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Barr said he has always been one to let his play do the talking. He didn't feel the need to speak up often because Chad Greenway was the clear-cut leader of the linebackers.

But with Greenway's retirement this offseason, Barr now ranks first among Vikings linebackers with 44 career starts, and 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 on to the next task of the day.

Barr, however, said during training camp 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."

But even with two consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and a bigger leadership role, those within the Vikings organization believe there is room for improvement because Barr's potential is so high.

In addition to physically getting his body ready for the grind of the NFL season, Barr said he spent most of the offseason refocusing himself.

"It was definitely more mental than physical," Barr said of his offseason preparation. "I put a lot of work into the offseason.

"I feel like I gave myself a better chance to make bigger plays just being in better shape and having a clear mind," Barr said. "I feel as good as I ever have in terms of mentally where I'm at. I'm trying to go attack the game and not just let it come to me."

If his high level of play in the season opener is any indication, Barr could be primed for another Pro Bowl season.

"He's on a mission," Zimmer said. "I think he wants to be the best linebacker in the league.

"We've got him doing a lot of different things," Zimmer added. "I think it's going to be an outstanding year for him."

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