When healthy, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has the ability to be one of the most dominant defensive players on the team. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds he has great size to play linebacker, but he also has the athleticism and speed to match up against almost anyone on the field.
It was that unique blend of size and athletic ability that led Mike Zimmer to select Barr as his very first draft pick as a head coach a year ago.
The biggest obstacle for Barr early on in his career has nothing to do with his play on the field, though. Instead, the biggest knock against the young linebacker has been his ability to stay healthy enough to play in games.
Two years into his career, he has missed six of the possible 30 games he could have played in, which includes being listed inactive for the final four games of his rookie season and being placed on injured reserve for the final one with a knee injury. But Barr has no concern of injuries playing a recurring role in the remainder of his career.
“Not really, I think it’s just something that happens throughout the course of the season,” he said. “And obviously you want to be out there, but sometimes situations are such where you can’t. So you just have to try to get healthy as fast as possible.”
Barr suffered a broken hand earlier this season, but that didn’t cause him to miss any time. It wasn’t until Week 13 when injuries once again started to affect his playing time.
He played in just seven snaps against the Seattle Seahawks before having to leave the game with a groin injury and has been listed as inactive the two games following. He remained on the injury report this week, but the groin and hand injuries were changed to a knee injury.
However, there seems to be plenty of optimism from both him and Zimmer about his chances to return this week against the New York Giants and finish off the regular season on a high note.
“I feel great,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a while, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there today, having a good week of practice and getting back out there on Sunday.”
This was the first time in Barr’s career where he has really had to deal with a nagging groin injury and said is has been tough sitting out. He always wants to be out on the field, but he is too important to Zimmer’s defense in the long run to risk him returning too early and reinjuring himself.
“I hadn’t had that before, so it was frustrating,” he said. “Just like any muscle injury you just have to be patient with it.”
Barr is often asked to do more than the average player on defense because of the versatility he possesses. That is what makes this groin injury so tricky. He spends a lot of time making cuts and changing direction quickly, so if it is not fully healed he could end up re-injuring it and missing even more time.
But the young linebacker is sounding like he is finally starting to trust it again and that is a good sign moving forward.
“Now that I feel like I’m able to go out there and play the way I like to play I’m excited for it,” he said.