Vikings’ Barr happy to practice
For most of the past month, the Vikings have held workouts at Winter Park. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr wished he could have been there.
NFL rules, though, prohibited that. Because his school, UCLA, was on the quarter system academically and hadn’t completed classes, all the first-round draft pick could do was wait.
“I was real bored, man,” Barr said Wednesday. “It was the longest four weeks.”
Barr this week finally was able to take the field for the first time since a May 16-18 rookie minicamp he was allowed to attend. He arrived Tuesday to start a three-day minicamp after missing 10 days of organized team activities.
Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards is impressed with how quickly Barr has gotten up to speed.
“His first day back for this mandatory minicamp, he seemed to understand the concepts of what it is we’re trying to teach right off the bat,” Edwards said.
Barr said he still feels “a little behind.” But he said he was helped by his meetings with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, who flew to California to meet with him several times over the past month.
Defense will continue to be a learning process for Barr. He played only two years on defense after spending his first two years at UCLA at running back.
On Tuesday, when quarterback Matt Cassel tried to draw the defense offside, Barr jumped. On Wednesday, Barr had a new experience when he lined up in front of the offensive line.
“I’ve never had my hand down before, so it’s something that’s still new to me,” Barr said. “(It’s) something I worked on when I was gone, so I’m going to continue to improve on it as I continue to practice.”
The coaches aren’t the only people talking about how quickly Barr is picking things up. So is the team’s other first-round draft pick, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, picked up by the Vikings with the No. 32 selection, 23 picks after Barr.
“He’s a very smart guy. ... He’s so eager to learn,” Bridgewater said. “Ever since he’s been here, he’s been going nonstop.”
Three Vikings rookies were restricted over the past month because of their school’s academic schedule. Guard David Yankey, a fifth-round pick from Stanford, returned to the team last week. Defensive end Scott Crichton, a third-round selection from Oregon State, joined the team this week.
“I have a lot of responsibilities, a lot of stuff to learn,” Barr said. “But it’s something I’m asked to do, something I’m willing to do, something I want to do. I just want to help this team win, so whatever they ask me, I’m going to do.”
The Vikings concluded the minicamp Thursday. Training camp in Mankato begins in five weeks, on July 25.
Kickers already getting gauge on TCF Bank Stadium
Displaced during the construction of a new stadium, Vikings kickers already are acquainting themselves with the vagaries of TCF Bank Stadium, Mike Priefer said.
The Vikings’ special teams coordinator said place-kicker Blair Walsh, punter Jeff Locke and long snapper Cullen Loeffler have spent time this spring practicing at the Gophers’ stadium, which will be their home for two seasons while the Metrodome is replaced by a new downtown stadium.
“It’s never gonna be easy, especially late in the year when it’s really windy,” Priefer said. “But if you know where the winds are going, we’re gonna use that as a home field advantage.”
Priefer said he expected wind patterns over the east/west-aligned field would cause unique predicaments. He said the infrastructure of the stadium, with one end occupied by a bowl and the other mostly open, would add to that.
“We’ll have a good idea going into every pre-game how strong the winds are — tail wind, head wind — and what we need to do to be successful,” he said. “It should be an advantage over our opponent.”
Vikings conclude minicamp with meeting of past, present
When the Vikings concluded spring drills Thursday, the present met the past.
Following the final day of minicamps and organized team activities, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer gathered his players. He then introduced one by one 14 former Minnesota players who were on hand for an alumni barbecue.
“It was great,” Zimmer said. “I think the players really liked it. I think the alumni liked it. As I told them, it’s important to me that these guys who have come before us, and given all these players the opportunities they have now, that it means a lot to me.”
Introduced were Mick Tingelhoff, Rich Gannon, Bill Brown, Matt Blair, Stu Voigt, Gene Washington, Dave Osborn, Greg Coleman, Leo Lewis, Rufus Bess, Ben Leber, John Campbell, John Henderson and Neal Guggemos.
Upon each introduction, Zimmer offered a brief biography. The players responded with polite applause.
“A lot of the guys are new,” said guard Charlie Johnson, in his fourth Minnesota season. “They don’t necessarily know the history and the players who kind of built the Vikings. So I think it’s good for a lot of the younger players just to see these guys, hear their stats and hear everything. It kind of gives them a sense of history.”