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Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, right, shadowed Audie Cole during minicamp on Wednesday at Winter Park.

Bruce Bisping • bbisping@startribune.com,

Vikings' top draft pick Barr is playing catch-up

  • Article by: Master Tesfatsion
  • Star Tribune
  • June 19, 2014 - 7:56 AM

 

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was for the most part stuck in Los Angeles over the past month. There aren’t many areas better to reside, but the Southern California native was ready to leave home, and couldn’t.

“I was real bored,” Barr said on Wednesday. “The longest four weeks, really. It was a good time for me to kind of decompress a little bit and get my mind right for this.”

And it didn’t take long for the Vikings to place the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft all around the front seven when he arrived for mandatory minicamp this week. The rookie has been used quite a bit in his return since an NFL rule restricted him from coming to the Twin Cities.

Barr was thrown into the shuffle at linebacker and used Wednesday at outside linebacker in both the base 4-3 and nickel defensive packages. The Vikings also incorporated Barr, listed at 6-5 and 255 pounds, with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end during pass rushing situations.

That is something Barr said he never was asked to do while playing linebacker for two seasons at UCLA after switching from running back. Barr was available for the team’s rookie minicamp in May but had to wait until he finished his finals to return with the team because of an NFL policy for rookies who haven’t graduated and haven’t finished their semester or quarter.

UCLA’s spring quarter concluded June 13, the final day of the Vikings’ organized team activities session.

“There’s a little bit of a learning curve missing OTAs, but it kind of is what it is,” Barr said. “I’ve just got to catch up and continue to watch film and continue to get better.”

Barr didn’t enjoy being away from the team during OTAs, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working. Linebackers coach Adam Zimmer flew to California multiple times to meet with Barr and gave him individual drills to practice during the layoff. The rookie also spent time watching film with the coaching staff via video chat.

In a three-point stance for the first time Tuesday, Barr jumped out of the stance and did a spin move toward a guard. On Wednesday, he used an effective swim move to get around an offensive tackle.

“Right now we’re kind of just working at different skill sets, different positions and keep on fitting in where his skill sets go,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “So, systematically, we are flexible enough that we can take his skill set and put him in positions where hopefully it helps us, most advantageous, whether rushing the passer, whether it’s dropping in coverage.”

Barr is the team’s tallest linebacker along with Audie Cole, and he is only four pounds lighter than defensive end Brian Robison, who is listed at 259. Moreover, Barr’s 4.66-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine gives the Vikings plenty of ways to use him. Barr’s size, speed and versatility are reasons why the Vikings drafted him.

Even as the Vikings exhausted every possible option in the collective bargaining agreement to get Barr up to speed, he still is behind. Barr’s role will evolve as he continues to understand the defense, which Edwards said hasn’t been a problem so far.

Barr has mixed up some of the play-call names during the two minicamp practices so far, but Edwards was impressed with the way the rookie has processed some of the defensive installations so far.

“I knew I was going to make mistakes,” Barr said. “I just had to make sure I did those at full speed. Not many nerves, just a lot of excitement, and I’m just happy to be here.”

In other words, he’s a long way from being bored.

© 2014 Star Tribune