Vikings second-year linebacker Anthony Barr had a tough end to his rookie season. After being in the running for NFL Rookie of the Year, he suffered a left knee injury and missed the final four games of the season after being one of the most promising Vikings defensive rookies in some time.

The ninth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft out of UCLA, Barr still recorded 70 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. Among rookies, he was 11th in tackles, fifth in sacks, third in forced fumbles and first in fumble recoveries.

Barr said the injury, which required surgery, took its toll on him.

“I wanted to be out there and help the team win, and it was frustrating,” he said. “Hopefully I can complete this season and maintain my health.”

Was building the knee back up difficult?

“No, the rehab part wasn’t tough,” he said. “It was just, like I said, frustrating. You want to be feeling as close to normal as possible and when it takes longer than you’d like, it becomes mentally barring.”

Barr missed practice again Thursday, which is cause for concern, although he said he was feeling better overall. He also said he tried to find some silver lining in missing those final four games last year.

“I’m not sure it hurt too much,” he said. “Obviously you want to get those reps and the experience is priceless, but being able to watch mentally and get those mental reps, I felt like that really helped me.”

A lot of NFL pundits, including ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, were touting Barr as the defensive rookie of the year before he got hurt. Barr didn’t mention any awards he could have won, but he did say he felt he was playing well for the Vikings.

“I thought I was contributing,” he said. “You know, obviously I made some mistakes — whether it be rookie mistakes or just the average mistake you make on a play here or there — but I feel like I was able to contribute in a positive way.”

Kendricks will help

Barr will be playing alongside his former college teammate, Eric Kendricks, who was drafted by the Vikings in the second round this year with the 45th overall pick.

“He’s doing really well,” Barr said. “I think he’s progressing pretty quickly. Obviously there’s a lot going on and there’s a whirlwind of information he’s trying to absorb on the fly. I’m sure he’s swimming a little bit in that, but I think he’s doing a great job.”

Barr said Kendricks, who set a UCLA career record with 481 tackles, is going to be a great help to the Vikings.

“A great athlete, very fast, strong, underrated as far as how smart he is and how much he loves the game of football,” Barr said. “… I’m anticipating him playing a lot.”

Barr also said he thinks he’ll be used in a similar fashion to last season, mostly at linebacker and sometimes at defensive end. Defensive coordinator George Edwards said something similar this week when asked about Barr’s ability to play at defensive end.

“He did it some in some games, and that’s one of the things that he has,” Edwards said. “He is a good pass rusher, but it should also help him [when] we’re blitzing off the outside edge. … But yes, that is a possibility as we progress through the rest of training camp and into the preseason.”

Barr didn’t state any lofty personal goals for his second season, though there’s a chance he could become the Vikings’ most important defensive player.

“My goal is really just help win as many games as possible,” he said. “I don’t really want to talk about whether I’m going to be a first-team [All-Pro] or Pro Bowl player, that’s not where my eyes are set. I’m just trying to win each game.”

Tomlin a hot coach

Mike Tomlin, who spent one year as Vikings defensive coordinator (2006) before becoming head coach of the Steelers — who the Vikings face Sunday in the NFL Hall of Fame Game — recently had his contract extended through 2018.

Tomlin, who has coached the Steelers since 2007, has taken them to two Super Bowls (2008 and 2010) and won the Lombardi Trophy following the 2008 season at age 36, the youngest coach to do so. He has never finished below .500 in his eight years as head coach.

If Tomlin had not gotten the Steelers job, he could have been hired by the Vikings as head coach after they fired Brad Childress in November 2010.

Jottings

• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill on redshirt freshman Rodney Smith, who is expected to see a lot of service at running back this year: “Rodney is a good football player. Rodney can block. He is physical. He doesn’t make mental errors. Good special team player. It is just that nobody ever talks about him. We have two good backs from Georgia: Smith [Jonesboro] and Shannon Brooks [Jasper].” Look for Smith to get plenty of carries as the Gophers try to replace the production of David Cobb, now with the Tennessee Titans.

• Ticket sales for the Vikings and Gophers football aren’t setting any records. The Gophers have 12,000 tickets available for the season opener Sept. 3 against TCU, ranked in the top five in several national preseason polls. And the Vikings haven’t sold out any of their games.

• Former Twins catcher Drew Butera hit his first home run of the season for the Royals in their 8-6 loss to the Tigers on Thursday. Butera now has eight career home runs and is hitting .186 this season with three RBI in 32 games.

• Ricky Rubio did an interview with Sports Illustrated recently and was asked for his early impressions of Kevin Garnett after playing a few games with him last season. “He’s a different guy when you meet him,” Rubio said. “It’s true if you’re not on his side you should be afraid.” Rubio also talked about his goals for the season. “If we stay healthy, it’s going to be a completely different team. We want to make the playoffs. It’s been a long time.”

• Former Twins pitcher Johan Santana’s agent, Peter Greenberg, said in an interview with Union Radio Sports that he expects the former two-time Cy Young winner to play with Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League to prepare for a return to the majors. Santana hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2012.

• Former Gophers basketball coach Dan Monson will have a tough nonconference schedule this year with Long Beach State, with the 49ers playing road games at Duke, Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and Oregon.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com