One of the key players to the Minnesota Vikings defense is linebacker Anthony Barr. He has the unique combination of size, strength and speed that coaches love to work with, and that’s a big reason why the Vikings decided to take him at No. 9 overall in the 2014 draft.
He did have some developing to do once he reached the NFL, but it was clear he was on the right track following his second season, as he finished the year with 68 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and seven passes defensed. He was even graded as the second-best linebacker in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, a sports analytic site that grades players based on their performance in games.
The biggest problem for Barr has been staying healthy for the entirety of a season. He missed four games his rookie season and then two last season. He’s tried to play at some points while injured, but he’s never the same player when he does.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “You have to figure out a way to stay healthy and stay on the field. That’s going to be our responsibility to be on the field each week.”
Barr sat out during all of the Vikings’ organized team activities and most of minicamp, but he was a full participant in the team’s first day of training camp. He was glad to be able to get back out on the field again and said that players tend to appreciate the game of football a little more when it’s taken away from them.
The task ahead of him now is to make sure he stays on the field and off the sidelines. Injuries are a part of the game, and most players will get banged up at one point or another, but it is important for players like Barr to be out on the field as often as possible.
“Kind of just going back to doing everything you can do that’s in your control,” he said. “Stuff’s going to happen, so you want to try and limit the injuries, obviously, but you can only do so much.”
Since his arrival, he has taken advice from his coaching staff and veteran players on the roster, like fellow linebacker Chad Greenway, about some things he can do to help him stay healthy. Ultimately, every person is different and their bodies handle things differently, and a lot of the injuries that do happen are uncontrollable. But he did mention that he has changed his workout regimen a little bit.
“You try to be more diligent, more deliberate, maybe tweak a thing here or there, but it’s just going to happen,” he explained. “It’s unfortunate and you try to, like I said, limit it as much as possible, but you can only control so much.”
The sad truth about the NFL is that injuries are going to happen to every player. All they can do is try to limit the amount of injuries by taking care of their bodies and minimize the time they are off the field. But some players seem to be injured more often than others, and they often get labeled as “injury prone.”
While Barr may not be there yet, he very well could be if he continues on the pace he is at. He has had to deal with a number of issues during his first two seasons in the NFL, and while the 2016 offseason may not have started out the right way, he is finally back the right track for now.