Anthony Barr is joining the MMA-influenced contingent of NFL players.
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was famous for working with MMA enthusiast and reporter Jay Glazer, and this summer Barr followed suit. Barr became tied to Chuck Liddell, former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion, through Glazer, the FOX Sports reporter for the NFL and MMA.
Barr’s training took place mainly between the conclusion of the Vikings’ minicamp in mid-June through the start of training camp at the end of July with three or four other NFL players, he said. He also worked with a trainer at UCLA, Barr’s alma mater.
“It was awesome,” Barr said.
Barr has already established himself as an athletic pass rusher off the edge from his strongside linebacker position, but gaining some insight into the hand techniques used by MMA fighters, he believes, will help even more.
“We do a lot of stuff where we’re batting hands down and being violent with our hands and I think that transfers most to football,” Barr said. “A lot of hip explosion, too. That transfers very well to football. I think that was very beneficial to me. I’d definitely recommend that place to any football player trying to get their hands to be more explosive.”
Although Barr has impressed teammates and coaches with his athletic ability, the ninth overall selection in the 2014 draft is still considered somewhat raw with his techniques, even for a rookie, after playing only two years of defense at UCLA. Defensive end Brian Robison called Barr a “physical freak of nature,” but also noted there is a learning ahead for him.
“He’s not used to having his hand in the dirt, but his willingness to learn is refreshing to see,” Robison said after the second preseason game. “… He’s always trying to figure out things that he can do better. He’s got such raw talent with just his speed and stuff, if he starts learning some of the hand techniques and things like that, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Barr finished the preseason with 1½ sacks, despite not playing in the preseason finale because of an ankle injury that is believed to be minor. Throughout the offseason, he flashed his quickness while getting around the edge, and he gradually appeared to use his size – all 6-foot-5, 255 pounds of him – in setting up would-be blockers who saw his speed by then bull-rushing them.
“There will come a time where guys start seeing that he’s a speed rusher and they start sitting. Now if he has an element where he can come back and bull a guy, now you’ve got problems,” Robison said. “That’s what he’s learning right now and I think he’s going to be a heck of a force for us.”
The hand techniques came first with some of his training at Unbreakable Performance in North Hollywood, owned by Glazer and former linebacker Brian Urlacher, when Liddell just happened to be there and told Barr to “jump in” for more tutoring.
Cleary, working with Liddell made an impression.
“It was pretty awesome training with one of the greatest fighters ever,” Barr said of Liddell. “He gave me some pointers. For an old man, he’s still strong as hell, so it was a pretty cool experience.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Working with Liddell made impression on Barr
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