Anthony Barr practiced for a second straight day on Thursday, making it the first time since early August that he was able to do that. While his status is still very much up in the air for Sunday's game against the Seahawks, Barr and his coaches seem confident that he's getting close to returning from a knee injury that has bothered him for more than six weeks.
Prior to this week, Barr last practiced on September 8th, the Wednesday before the Vikings' opener in Cincinnati. But he didn't feel quite right during that session, so Barr backed down and "took some time to get it right" instead of pushing himself too far before the knee was ready.
Now, two weeks later, he's moving better and thinks he's approaching a point where the injury will be fully behind him.
“I don’t think I had, necessarily, a setback," Barr said. "I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to be ready by the beginning of the season. So when I practiced a couple weeks ago and then didn’t practice the next day, I think that was just me trying to test to see where I was."
It's been a frustrating start to the season for Barr, whose contract was restructured this spring, setting him up to hit free agency next year. After missing basically all of 2020 with a pectoral tear, Barr was anxious to get back out there this year and prove his worth. The knee injury, which occurred early in training camp, put that on hold.
“Yeah, it sucks," he said. "It was bad. But I think you kind of play the hand you’re dealt, you know? I think the worst is behind me, which feels good. Just have to continue to move forward, progress and stack these good days. Trying to progress and do a little more each day."
Even if Barr is feeling better, the Vikings are going to be cautious with his knee. They could certainly use him to help turn around their 0-2 start, but the play of Nick Vigil (18 tackles, a sack, a pick-six) hasn't been a problem. Barr and the team want to make sure he's feeling close to 100 percent and won't be limited in what he can do.
“I’m not sure yet," Barr said when asked if he'll play on Sunday. "I would love to. I would love nothing more than to be playing. But it's something that obviously I want to make sure I’m 100 percent. I think I owe it to myself and owe it to the team not to put myself out there if I’m not going to be at full speed. But I feel like I’m approaching that point."
Barr doesn't think this will be something that will linger all season long. He feels like he's getting close to putting it behind him. Co-defensive coordinator and former linebackers coach Adam Zimmer said he feels like Barr has "turned a corner" in his recovery.
The key is going to be making sure he's in game shape with his strength and conditioning levels. Even if he doesn't play this week, it sounds like he'd have a great chance to return in Week 4 against the Browns.
Given Vigil's success, the Vikings could also ease Barr in by not immediately throwing him back into an every-down role.
“I don’t know about a pitch count, but I think I’m going to have to see how it goes during the game, see how he is," Adam Zimmer said. "If we’re getting three and outs every series, it might be different than if we have a ten-play drive or whatever. But we will have a plan. I’m 100 percent confident with Nick Vigil in the game. It might be a time where we just want to get Nick in. It's not just Anthony or whatever, I think it's going on the flow of the game."
After a long 12 months and counting of dealing with multiple injuries, Barr's return is close.
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