Vikings’ No. 1 pick, Barr, on course to start opener

MANKATO, Minn. -- News flash: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Friday there's a "strong" chance rookie linebacker Anthony Barr will start the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at St. Louis.

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USA TODAY Sports Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr laughs as he leaves the field following a July 25 training camp practice at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

MANKATO, Minn. - News flash: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Friday there’s a “strong” chance rookie linebacker Anthony Barr will start the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at St. Louis.
Then again, perhaps that would be regarded as old news to Zimmer.
With Barr clearly having had a good first week of training camp, Zimmer was asked after Friday’s practice at Minnesota State Mankato what kind of chance the No. 9 pick has of starting the opener.
“I would say strong,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer then was asked if he said that because of Barr’s play since training camp started on July 25.
“I probably would have said that after the first minicamp,” Zimmer said, referring to the May 16-18 rookie minicamp at Winter Park.
So while the Vikings’ other first-round pick - quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 - gets most of the attention, Barr is quietly living up to expectations.
You could say the rookie from UCLA is flying under the radar, which is OK with Zimmer.
“I think it’s part of the position that you play, and the fact that we have two first-round picks,” he said. “I think there’s so many stories with this team - new coaches, new players, free agents, all the different things - that (Barr) might be getting overlooked. But I think that’s fine.
“He doesn’t seem to be a guy that really cares much about that stuff.”
No, Barr isn’t. He’s soft spoken and gracious. When asked what his favorite part of training camp has been so far, he said, “The food’s been pretty good.”
Meanwhile, Barr has been hungry to learn. Coaches have complimented him for the way he takes notes during meetings, then applies what he has learned.
“I think that is what a football player should be; be attentive and pick up on little things,” Barr said. “Any information that you can get, absorb it and try to apply it.”
Barr missed about a month of spring drills while finishing up classes at UCLA, so he couldn’t be in Minnesota. But he’s mostly made up for lost time.
“His alignments are just a tiny, little bit off,” Zimmer said. “He’ll fix that. He’s got good power when he punches. … He’s blitzing well. He’s still got to learn some of the rush things in this league, but for the most part he’s advancing as good as expected.”
If Barr, indeed, is in line to get the call in Week 1, that would mean both starters at outside linebacker are in place. Chad Greenway is the other.
“Anthony is a great kid,” Greenway said. “He’s very talented. We have a young group of linebackers, a lot of guys competing and playing good football.”
For now, though, most of the competition has turned to the middle, where Audie Cole, Jasper Brinkley and Michael Mauti are duking it out.
So far, none of them is a “strong” candidate to start.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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