Mike Zimmer personally wanted to move his podium session up a day to Friday morning, when the Vikings head coach addressed a trade rumor that is unverified by the Star Tribune and difficult to find from a reputable source.
Still, Zimmer wanted to send a message about linebacker Anthony Barr: he’s very much wanted in the Vikings locker room.
“I wanted to meet with you because I was made aware of an erroneous report about Anthony Barr,” Zimmer said. “Anthony is my guy, number one. We are unequivocally not trying to trade Anthony. He’s the first draft pick we ever had with me. He’s helped this defense go from 32nd or 31st to pretty good. So there is none whatsoever truth to that rumor. He had a tweak yesterday and we kept him out of practice for a while and he should be out there today.”
Barr, 26, is entering a contract year making $12.3 million this fall via the pricey fifth-year option exercised by the Vikings. Barr sat out three OTA practices this spring while orchestrating an insurance deal to protect his future earnings against catastrophic injury in lieu of a long-term contract extension in Minnesota.
The Vikings are still working on signing Barr to a long-term deal, according to Zimmer.
“Number one, he’s smart as heck. So I can tell him to do all kinds of different things, make all kinds of different checks and adjustments,” Zimmer said. “He’s got great size, length and speed. He dictates the game in a lot of different ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and to me that’s important.
“We’re trying to get him signed. Hopefully we can. That’s between the upstairs and his people, so. We’d love to have him here. Like I said, he’s my guy. First guy that I drafted. So, you know I want him to get him the best deal he can possibly get, but in a selfish way I want him to be here, too.”
Barr has started 37 consecutive games and made three straight Pro Bowl appearances. This offseason, Barr is specifically working on his pass-rushing moves through daily stops with Vikings defensive linemen during practice.
This comes as the Vikings are experimenting with ways to use Barr on defense. He’s aligned at the defensive end spot in a certain package not seen before this summer. However, Barr has mainly rushed the edge from a two-point stance without his hand in the turf.
At times, Zimmer has candidly critiqued his players in public and that’s no different with Barr. Near the end of the 2016 season, Zimmer said Barr had a tendency to “coast” in stretches of games. Barr said last year he wanted to improve his effort.