Anthony Barr had two years of playing defense before becoming the Minnesota Vikings' first pick in the 2014 draft.
He's now two years and one weekend into the defensive transition after completing Vikings rookie camp two weeks ago and being forced out of Winter Park by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement that limit a rookie's exposure to the NFL when his college is still in session and he hasn't graduated yet. When many of the other rookies return to work later this week for the first week of organized team activities, Barr will be back at UCLA.
It won't help his continued transition much, and he has the added task of getting used to a new defense, new coaches and new responsibilities. That means even more adjustments.
"I think now that I'm playing a little more off the ball, it's going to be using my eyes better, being able to key guards and key fullbacks, stuff like that," Barr said. "That stuff I'm still picking up.
"I didn't really know what to expect. I really didn't have any expectations. I knew where I went would be different and would be an adjustment."
Barr got his immersion into the Minnesota's defense a week after being drafted No. 9 overall, but, even with him being forced back to UCLA, the Vikings were planning to keep him in the loop with installation progressions on his iPad, during Skype sessions with coaches and even having position coach Adam Zimmer visit him.
The next time Barr can be back practicing with the Vikings is during their June minicamp, the final three days of work before more than a month break from full-team practices until training camp starts in late July.
Despite all the adjustments he will be making, the decision to move from running back and fullback at UCLA to linebacker was his. He requested the move because he wasn't getting much playing time in his early years with the Bruins and it obviously paid draft dividends.
"This transition was very mental, making sure I can understand my assignment. Once you get that you can go and play at a high speed and that's what it's kind of all about," he said.
Head coach Mike Zimmer agrees. He already has mentioned several times the importance of defensive speed. He was also impressed with Barr's ability to retain information about the defense.
"He is still learning a lot of different things and we will be able to teach him a lot," Zimmer said after the Vikings drafted Barr. "With all of these players, we try to have a vision when we pick them of what we are looking for and how we can use them in different ways and how we can use them to our advantage to put stress on the offense, and he was one of the more unique guys we had in the draft here."
In some ways, Barr's inexperience made him even more tantalizing to a defensive-minded head coach whose emphasis on technique and the details has been evident since the start of offseason practices.
Barr said it's his responsibility to learn the defense and apply what he was shown in film sessions when he was at Winter Park.
The defense is different than what he ran at UCLA, but there is some crossover in coaching personalities. He called his former head coach, Jim Mora, a "pretty fiery dude" but "very fun to play for," which are similar descriptions applied to Zimmer.
Zimmer called Barr a "fawn" when talking about his defensive progression after drafting him. At rookie minicamp, he said Barr had been promoted to a doe.
"That's awesome," Barr said when informed of his promotion. "I guess I'm very happy to be a doe. We'll see where that leads me."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Barr working in background for now
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