MANKATO, Minn. — The road to recovery can be a long and winding test of will.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, however, believes the worst days are disappearing from his rearview mirror.
After being sidelined for much of the offseason program, Barr has been more and more active this week at Verizon Vikings Training Camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
"I think I feel good enough where they can leave me out there for plays at a time instead of just doing one or two at a time," Barr said.
A promising rookie season in which the 2014 first-round pick made an immediate impact in starting his first 12 games ended with a knee injury that cost him all of December, but Barr stayed focused while sidelined, continuing to learn more about the expanded role he could play for the Vikings this season.
"Rehab is always tough because you kind of want to be out there, grinding with the guys, but you've got to do what you've got to do to get better," Barr said.
Friday's practice included drills linebackers blitzing against running backs and Barr also rushing from the edge at one point against colossal reserve tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi. He won some and lost some, which is common for multiple players in those types of drills, Head Coach Mike Zimmer said.
"It was good, my first time doing that in a while, so it was kind of like doing that for the first time again, but I felt good and thought I did alright," Barr said.
Zimmer watched much of the blocking-against-pass rush drills.
"We're working on the techniques against live people, and especially with that group that you saw today, I'm trying to get different matchups, so I don't have to put the whole second group against the whole first group," Zimmer said. "I can see some of these younger guys against the older guys and vice-versa. It's really about trying to get some evaluations off different people.
"We script them, but we make sure, what we're trying to do, the guys that go on each other all the time like Everson (Griffen) and (Matt) Kalil and (Brian Robison) and (Phil) Loadholt, we're trying to get different ones so that B-Rob goes against (Austin) Shepherd or (Danielle) Hunter gets to go against Kalil. I'm trying to evaluate what kind of player the rusher is and the protector."
Earlier this week, Zimmer said Hunter, 20, isn't as raw as coaches originally thought.
"He led the SEC in tackles for loss, but he wasn't great and had 1.5 sacks," Zimmer said. "He's improved his rush angle so much and is starting to use his long arms and height."
Zimmer said Shepherd, another rookie from the SEC on the other side of the ball is a "guy that kind of knows how to play."
"We've been doing a lot of stuff with the lines together these last two days, so I think he's got a chance," Zimmer said. "I just don't know where yet. We've got him at tackle now, but he may end up moving to guard."
CAN YOU DIGGS IT?
Stefon Diggs capped an 11-on-11 move-the-ball drill with a touchdown reception on a pass from Shaun Hill that drew one of the biggest reactions from a solid crowd.
Diggs worked against Marcus Sherels and broke to the inside just before the end zone. Sherels was with him step for step, but Diggs was able to reach his hands to snatch the football and hang on to it even after hitting the ground.
The fifth-round pick has been solid and splashy during the offseason program and camp. He also took reps as a punt returner Friday and showed sensible decisions in three different situations: He let the first one go over his head because it landed inside the 10, he successfully made a diving catch on one that presented a challenge, and he fair caught another at the 10.