Top pick Barr has mixed role, mixed results

The Vikings top draft pick is being asked to digest a lot in a short amount of time. He admits to "screwing up" his share, but he's also being looked at in a variety of roles.

Anthony Barr knows he is going to screw up early, and maybe often, but he just wants to do it at full speed now.

Forced away from Vikings practices for a month while he finished up school at UCLA, Barr wasn't able to attend practices even if he wanted to because of an NFL rule prohibiting that for players who haven't finished school.

The end of school and the onset of the mandatory minicamp had Barr excited to revisit what he learned at rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft.

"Man, I was real bored," he said of his time away. "The longest four weeks, really. It was a good time for me to kind of decompress a little bit and get my mind right for this."

And now?

"I was really excited. I knew I was going to make mistakes. I just had to make sure I did those at full speed," Barr said Wednesday after his second day of minicamp. "Not many nerves, just a lot of excitement and I'm just happy to be here."

The Vikings drafted Barr ninth overall to increase the athleticism at linebacker, a position that has been depleting over recent years. The only regular starter from last year's linebacker corps that is returning is Chad Greenway, who is now considered the team's weakside linebacker.

Barr is expected to win the starting strongside linebacker spot when he gets more comfortable with his responsibilities.

"There's still a lot that I confuse, and I kind of mix up coverages and responsibilities sometimes," he said. "It's the names I think more than my actual responsibility. So, once I get that down, I'll be alright."

That's to be expected, but the athleticism that the Vikings saw on tape has been evident in minicamp. He is being used to rush the passer, a strength of his in his two years at linebacker for the Bruins, and even in coverage.

"I have a lot of responsibilities, a lot of stuff to learn. But it's something I'm asked to do, something I'm willing to do, something I want to do," he said. "I just want to help this team win, so whatever they ask of me, that's what I'm going to do."

In the first day of minicamp, Barr was practicing with the second-team defense on the strong side. Wednesday, he was already getting some first-team reps, both in the base defense and even in the nickel defense, where he would be asked to cover much more often.

He was also rushing off the edge with his hand down on occasion, a new experience for him.

"Right now we're kind of just working at different skill sets, different positions and keep on fitting in where his skill sets go," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "So, systematically we are flexible enough that we can take his skill set and put him in positions where hopefully it helps us, most advantageous, whether rushing the passer, whether it's dropping in coverage – all of those things that he is able to bring to the table. We're just moving him around right now, working his different skill sets and just seeing where he fits."

Fitting in is a welcome sight.

He said the veterans probably didn't know much about him "or probably didn't care to really because I wasn't part of the team yet."

Now he is. His contract is signed and he is a fully participating member of minicamp.

During his required time away, he was able to study up on the defensive installation going on back in Minnesota through Skype sessions with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer and by having Zimmer visit him in California a couple of times.

"I feel like I'm coming along pretty well. Like I said, there's a little bit of a learning curve missing OTAs, but it kind of is what it is. I've just got to catch up and continue to watch film and continue to get better."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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