This is the first time I've had a chance to listen to Bars for an extended Q&A with the media. He's a very impressive guy. He was very open and honest, especially when asked direct questions. For somebody who has not done a lot of interviews, he is extremely polished. See for yourself in the answers below.
Bars missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles sustained right before preseason camp kicked off. Before the injury, he was expected to compete for a starting job. Instead, he had surgery and missed the entire season. Bars is a 6-foot-3, 263-pounder out of Nashville.
It was kind of odd that nobody asked him where he is physically until about the midway point of the call. In recapping what he had to say, I'm going to go out of order and start with that.
ON IF THERE ARE ANY LIMITATIONS ON WHAT HE CAN DO IN PRACTICE
He had earlier said he was getting close to full speed. So I asked the above question. He said, I am full speed running. I'm doing all the drills, all the non-contact drills. They're holding me out of contact right now, and I think it's pretty smart. They're trying to get me to camp (as healthy as) they can. He said he believes he is ready for contact now but understands why the staff is being cautious. I'm cutting well, I'm bending around the edges. He believes his legs are actually stronger than they were before the injury. My Achilles will be great for the (season) and the summer.
ON IF HE HAS A SENSE FOR WHERE HE STANDS ON THE DEPTH CHART
He said right now it is difficult to tell because he is not taking part in contact. But he is confident he'll be competing with the starters once the preseason gets here. He is getting good vibes from DL coach Sean Spencer and DC Bob Shoop. Coach Chaos (Spencer) and Coach Shoop believe in me.
ON SUSTAINING THE INJURY IN A WORKOUT LATE LAST SUMMER
Last year was probably the hardest thing I've ever been through. I got injured right before camp; it was a simple conditioning drill. He did not go into specifics of how he was hurt. But he said he did not sit around feeling sorry for himself. I went to the coaches and asked how I could help. They assigned him to help coach the special teams. He would scout opponents by breaking down film and pass along what he saw to the coaches and players. He also took it on himself to take all the freshmen under my wing and show them the ropes of college football. Finally, he would watch film of opposing offenses and pay close attention during games, so he could help his fellow defensive linemen. I kind of took on a coaching role as best I could. With the other defensive ends, I'd be watching film of opponents, and if I saw something, I'd speak up. I had extra time to focus on the film, so I would do my best to help those guys succeed.
Along those lines, he said, I felt like I was going to be a huge part of the team last year. I mentally prepared myself for that. I was going to do whatever I could to help the team win. I had that mind-set that I would go out and do everything I could to make the team better. That did not change once he was injured, when he asked himself, What can I do to help this team get better, because I can't play? The answer was to pitch in on the coaching front. I wanted to do it for (his teammates). That was a no-brainer. As soon as (the injury) happened, I was disappointed. But I looked at it as our team had a huge year ahead of it, and how can I be a factor?
Finally, he said helping as a coach last year helped him as a player, because, the game slowed down a lot. It was really my first time to step away from the game and watch it. It taught me a lot about a game I thought I already knew a lot about.
ON IF HE WILL TRY TO GET A SIXTH YEAR OF ELIGIBILITY DUE TO MEDICAL HARDSHIP
I would absolutely love to get a sixth year. I've missed over 28 games at Penn State due to injury. There are a lot of steps that will have to happen, but I would definitely be interested. Some of our trainers and compliance people are looking into that. He said he is not focused on the sixth year right now, though. I'm just working my butt off for this year. I think if I take care of business and stay healthy, this is going to be a great year for the team and myself.
ON THE TIMELINE OF HIS RECOVERY
He had surgery shortly after the injury. He was on a motorized cart for about a month. Then he started walking with crutches. Then without crutches. From walking to running was the biggest change. Once the strength was built up, I started jogging in November and December. In winter workouts, he began squatting and other lower-body strength training. He also took part in all team morning runs, though admitted he was only able to go at about 80 percent at the time.
ON HOW SPENCER IS DOING FOLLOWING A STRONG PERSONALITY LIKE LARRY JOHNSON
He's definitely his own person. He takes so much pride in our success and just wants to see us do well, that everyone in the defensive line room bought into him the moment he walked into the room. You know what you're going to get from him. He's energetic, he's positive, he's racing us from drills to drills. He's created his own identity here and everyone has bought into him.