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Bleacher Report – Vikings

‘Pretty special’ linebacker: Anthony Barr continues to make it look easy

By Derek Wetmore

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has dealt with several injuries in his young career, which is potentially a bad sign that he’s often dinged up. But this is the NFL, where plenty of players get injured, and to Barr’s credit, he’s often gutted out to play through some of them.

He’s been such a difference-maker when he’s on the field that he can literally change the way Mike Zimmer plans his defensive strategy.

His return from a knee injury, coupled with that of Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring) and Linval Joseph (foot/toe) made an immediate impact in Sunday’s dominating win against Eli Manning and the Giants.

And although he’s in just his second year in the NFL and is relatively inexperienced at his position even dating back to his college days at UCLA, Barr has made things look so easy it gets on at least one of his teammate’s nerves.

“He just make everything look easy, man. I always mess with him about that,” nickelback Captain Munnerlyn said. “I’m a guy – I had to work hard to get what I got. He make everything look so easy. He’s six-[foot]-five, running a 4.4 [40-yard dash] and can tackle like that and can pass rush like that. I always tease him: ‘Man, why you make everything look so easy?’”

Munnerlyn, for what it’s worth, was probably just joking around.

Barr’s response?

“I don’t know, man, it’s easy to me,” Barr said, according to Munnerlyn.

“I was like, ‘Whoa. I gotta scratch, I gotta pull, I gotta cheat sometimes, I gotta do a lot of things to get what I got.’ But at the the same time, man, he’s a special athlete and I’m glad he’s on my team,” Munnerlyn said.

It may seem like a distant memory now, but there was a vocal segment of the team’s fan base that loudly disagreed with Minnesota selecting Barr so early in the first round in 2014. He had, after all, very little experience at linebacker and thus was deemed raw by analysts. Just a couple years earlier he was a running back for the Bruins, for crying out loud.

But his athleticism and intellect has even surprised someone who saw a bright future for the linebacker.

“It’s been a surprise,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “You never really know when you bring a guy in how fast he can learn or how fast he can pick things up moving to a new position. He’s been above the curve on that for sure.”

You might not see Barr’s impact on Sunday’s score sheet – he had just one tackle – but his impact is felt in Minnesota’s defense. And combined with Joseph and Smith, it’s just another weapon Zimmer can use as he plots a way to slow down Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy this weekend.

Whether it’s blowing up a screen play singlehandedly or rushing the quarterback from the edge or reading and reacting to what an offense is trying to do, the Vikings notice Barr’s presense. And so do their opponents.

“Actually, there’s a big difference when he’s in the ballgame because he sees things,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes I’m really amazed at a guy that’s a second-year linebacker that didn’t play behind the line in college, that played two years at defensive end, is basically what he was — some of the things he can do and see and react to, it’s pretty special.”

Zimmer also said he’s looking forward to when Barr as a full offseason to add some strength rather than focusing on rehab “because he’s a great athlete but he’s also really smart.”

“He sees things fast … and once he continues to develop some more strength and then some of the other things he still needs to work on, there really is no limit for his athletic ability for him because he has the other intangibles besides just being an athlete,” Zimmer said.

The post ‘Pretty special’ linebacker: Anthony Barr continues to make it look easy appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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