Notebook: The art of forcing fumbles

Rookie Anthony Barr was an NCAA leader in stripping the ball at UCLA. He and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talk about forcing a fumble versus going for a tackle, which could come into play against Robert Griffin III.

The Minnesota Vikings can expect to be playing against Robert Griffin III on Sunday, but don’t expect too much insight from rookie linebacker Anthony Barr on Griffin.

Barr and Griffin, the Washington Redskins quarterback who is expected to make his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury in Week 2, starred in a Subway commercial that was shot this offseason, along with Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck. Barr said he spent about 12 hours with Griffin

“I know him pretty well. We were on set for 12 hours, the whole day,” Barr said. “He’s a pretty funny guy.”

But that’s about as far as the relationship went. Barr said he hasn’t talked with Griffin since.

Earlier in the week, Barr and the Vikings defense were preparing for both Colt McCoy, who led the Redskins to a come-from-behind win against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, but Washington coach Jay Gruden said on Thursday he has “every intent” to start Griffin.

“I think they’re similar in a lot of ways. Obviously RG3 is a little more experienced and probably a little faster and throws the ball maybe a little further,” Barr said. “Other than that I think they’re similar, comparable. We’ve just got to be prepared for both.”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said the team starting preparing for Griffin more on Thursday.

Griffin might be a better matchup for Barr’s fumble-causing abilities, however. In the season opener against the Houston Texans, Griffin had two fumbles and lost one. Last week, Barr caused a fumble on the opening play from scrimmage in overtime against the Tampa Buccaneers, picked up the loose ball and ran in the game-winning touchdown from 27 yards out.

As a team, the Redskins are in the middle of the league rankings with 10 fumbles and tied for ninth with six lost. The Vikings are tied for ninth on defense with 12 fumbles caused but only 18th with four of them recovered.

Barr, meanwhile, has caused only one fumble but recovered three of the four caused by the defense.

“You’ve got to pick and choose your battles and when you see the opportunity you’ve got to take it,” Barr said. “You can’t just go for the ball every time. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the tackle first sometimes.”

That’s a philosophy that should make Zimmer happy.

“We’re going to make sure we make the tackle first, that’s the number one thing,” Zimmer said. “We’ll work on stripping the football, as well. I don’t want to be a football team that tries to strip balls and miss tackles. The good defensive teams are sound fundamentally – they are great tackling teams, and then, usually, you’re getting a lot of fumbles because you’re in the right place and you’re hitting people. You get some stripping, obviously, but that’s really not what we’re about.”

Last year, Griffin and Redskins running back Alfred Morris were tied for second in the league (along with Peyton Manning and Reggie Bush) with five fumbles.

In two seasons of playing linebacker at UCLA, Barr caused nine fumbles and last year he recovered four. He tied for the NCAA lead with 0.33 fumbles caused per game.

“That was more quarterbacks than receivers and stuff like, but I guess it’s the same philosophy,” said Barr, who was used more as a pass-rushing linebacker and defensive end at UCLA.

“I think it’s just kind of a mindset, getting the ball out.”

His trifecta on Sunday of a fumble caused, recovered and returned for a touchdown against Buccaneers earned him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He took the honor in stride and said it only earned him a “pat on the back,” although that wasn’t from head coach Mike Zimmer.


The Vikings defense is tied for second in the NFL with 28 sacks, but according to offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, the defensive line will be facing the best offensive tackle in the league.

As part of a series of stories on the best players in Vikings history, Viking Update Magazine asked the current players for the best player in the NFL at their position and not on their team. Loadholt picked Washington left tackle Trent Williams.

“He’s a physical specimen. He weighs 315 pounds and can run like a fullback,” Loadholt said. “He’s physical and does everything he’s supposed to do at an elite level. He’s strong. He’s quick. He has excellent technique. He’s a beast, man.”

Officially, Williams is listed at 6-foot-5 and 337 pounds.


  • The Vikings worked out three quarterbacks on Friday as potential replacements for Chandler Harnish on the practice squad. Harnish suffered a Grade 1 Lisfranc injury, according to Zimmer, when he was stepped on by an offensive lineman in Wednesday’s practice.

  • Zimmer explained why rookie offensive lineman David Yankey hasn’t been active for a game yet this season. “He’s got to get stronger,” Zimmer said. “He’s doing OK with the technique and understanding. He’s got to get stronger, he’s got to be more stout in the areas where he needs to be.”

  • Zimmer on CB Xavier Rhodes: “The good part is that he’s challenging receivers and contesting catches, for the most part. There’s some technique things we need to work on with him. We’ve addressed it again this week, so we will see. He’s still a young, developing player that from what I understand didn’t play much last year. I think he’s learning a lot about the scheme and the techniques that we play. He will continue to learn and I would anticipate throughout the course of the season he will continue to learn.”

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