Vikings’ building block saves the day

By Tom Powers St. Paul Pioneer Press There have been zero expectations for the Vikings since they lost Adrian Peterson. And they've certainly delivered as advertised -- zero. So we've all been focusing on peeling back the layers of flotsam and je...

By Tom Powers

St. Paul Pioneer Press

There have been zero expectations for the Vikings since they lost Adrian Peterson. And they’ve certainly delivered as advertised - zero.

So we’ve all been focusing on peeling back the layers of flotsam and jetsam in an effort to find a few prized building blocks. We’re trying to look past the fading veterans and semi-skilled drones who populate the huddle in an effort to zero in on those I-beams that will support the weight of the future. Each week it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Anthony Barr is one such player.

Sunday in Tampa, the Vikings appeared headed for a contemporary low point. How could they lose, how could anybody lose, to the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Yet there they were, perched on the edge of destruction.


Frankly, some of us were stunned to the point of feeling a bit queasy. Well, Minnesota’s shocking play and the halftime Cuban sandwiches probably were co-responsible for that unsettledness. Still, witnessing this dreary contest was not a pleasant experience despite the gorgeous Florida weather.

Suddenly, the dormant Vikings offense rallied for a field goal to send the game into OT. And on the Bucs’ first play from scrimmage in the overtime session, young Barr took over, stripping the ball from tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scooping it up and running 27 yards into the end zone.

“I’m thinking: win, score, let’s get out of here,” Barr said afterwards.

He’s an understated kid.

“Amazing, outstanding, extraordinary! Wow!” said defensive end Everson Griffen, who is not so understated. “Big players make big plays in big situations. That was a hell of a play.”

“Initially, I was a little upset with him,” said coach Mike Zimmer, who did not think Barr had covered Seferian-Jenkins well enough on the play. “He let him catch the ball. But now that it’s over, I’m glad he did.”

“I thought I did my job,” Barr noted. “But Coach always has something to say. It’s good for me, though. Keeps me on point. I was just happy I was there to make a play.”

Zimmer is very tough on Barr, the way all good coaches should be with a high-potential youngster. Zimmer gets on him in practice and rarely lets up. Heck, Barr will be the first to tell you that.


“He just wants everything perfect,” Barr said. “You just have to be perfect all the time. When you’re not perfect, you’re going to hear it so just try to be perfect.”

Drafted ninth overall by the Vikings in May, Barr, out of UCLA, has adapted quickly to the NFL and to a new position. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he looks almost lanky, but he hits like a piledriver. Which, by the way, has resulted in a couple of chuckles. Just last week at Winter Park, I reminded him that he hits running backs and quarterbacks much better and much harder than he hits softballs.

Barr was sort of unveiled to the public in late June at Target Field when he threw out the first pitch at a Twins game. That went relatively smoothly, although he was more of a lobber than a fireballer. The interesting part occurred earlier, during the home-run derby softball hitting contest. Yikes!

Barr went 0 for 7 and mostly swung at missed at the soft tosses, leading some of us to wonder if the young man was coordinated enough to play professional football. We can laugh about it now, of course. Anyway, we all agreed that he chose the right sport for his career path.

“I knew he was a great athlete. I knew he was a great person,” Zimmer said, thinking back to draft day. “You always have a little bit of doubt when a guy is learning a new position. Sometimes the outside linebacker/defensive end pass rushers that move to a 4-3 linebacker, like we play, have a real difficult transition.

“He has not had that.”

He’s been good. In addition to his game-winning play Sunday, Barr had eight solo tackles and a sack. This kid is a keeper and when - or if - the Vikings ever get good, Barr should be right in the middle of it.

“I’m taking it day by day, taking baby steps and trying to get better each day,” he said. “I’m a lot more comfortable dropping back into coverage and I‘m kind of understanding concepts and routes.”


“I just see him growing up, growing up in front of my eyes,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “He’s going to be a very special player in this league for a long time. He’s a bigger guy and he’s learning a brand new position, which he is excelling in. I’m excited for him and I’m glad he’s my teammate.”

So disaster was avoided in Tampa. Better yet, the day was saved by one of the franchise’s building blocks. There may be zero exceptions for this version of the Vikings yet people are expecting a lot from Anthony Barr. As well they should be.

St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service

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