Technical issues placed more stress on Barr

As if rookie linebacker Anthony Barr didn’t have enough to worry about, he was making the defensive calls when the communication helmet was failing.

As if Anthony Barr didn’t have enough to think about in his rookie season in his multi-dimensional defensive role, the football gods that that have been frowning on the Minnesota Vikings of late added a technical difficulty.

With veteran linebacker Chad Greenway knocked out of last Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings called on their top draft choice to wear the helmet that receives communications from the sideline to get the defensive calls. Only those calls weren’t coming in loud and clear all the time on Sunday.

“There were some plays where it just didn’t go off at all and some plays where it would cut off early, so we were kind of just running around,” Barr said. “You saw us get set up late a couple times just because we didn’t have a call in.

“Technology, you can’t live with it, you can’t live without it.”

Each team is allowed one player on offense and one on defense to wear a helmet with the communication piece inside to get calls from a coach or coordinator. But Sunday in New Orleans the Vikings dealt with more technical difficulties with those communication pieces on offense and defense. They had problems during their first road game in St. Louis, too.

“These dang headsets. I don’t know what’s going on with them,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s game. “Out of three weeks, we’ve had two issues, so we need to get that fixed.”

Greenway had been charged with receiving the defensive communication on the field, signified by the player wearing the green sticker on his helmet. But when Greenway left the game in the second half with a broken rib, the Vikings switched the responsibility to Barr, playing in only his third NFL game.

He agreed that it could be a little frantic when not receiving the defensive call from Zimmer, or only getting part of it before the communication cut out.

“Yeah, but it comes with the responsibility, man, comes with the territory,” Barr said.

“We just try to go with the safe call and just try to get everybody to play the safe call and try to get everybody set up.”

While the low-key Barr downplayed the issue a bit, safety Harrison Smith admitted it could cause big problems for a defense built on diagnosing offenses quickly and making adjustments before the snap.

“When that kind of stuff happens, it is a big deal,” Smith said. “It’s almost like you’re scrambling to get the call, you’re scrambling to get lined up. You can’t use all the tools that you have. You watch all this film throughout the week to understand what you’re trying to do and then when stuff like that happens it’s harder to say, OK, this is how they’re looking, this is what I expect, because you’re just scrambling to get yourself lined up. It can be pretty annoying.”

The Vikings had already been asking plenty of their versatile first-round defender, and with Greenway’s absence, making the defensive calls was just another layer to Barr’s responsibilities.

“It’s a challenge and something I’m still working on,” Barr said. “Obviously, I don’t have the defense mastered by any means, not at my position. It’s definitely a challenge and I’ve just got to try to get everybody set up and ready to roll.”

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