Barr striving to improve effort in fourth season

September 2, 2017 GMT

MANKATO -- If you watched Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in 2016 and thought he didn’t always give his best effort every snap, you’re not alone.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards would agree.

Zimmer made that clear this past December.

“Anthony sometimes has a tendency to coast a little bit,” Zimmer said.

Barr can’t afford to coast again in 2017. Not if he wants to sign a long-term contract in the near future. And not if he hopes to fill the leadership void Chad Greenway left when he retired this offseason.

If there’s such thing as a road to effort recovery, he is on it. Barr took the first step when decided he could improve in the effort department.

“That’s a big emphasis for me this offseason,” Barr said.

Barr’s coasting hasn’t led to terrible production, though. He finished with 70 total tackles and two sacks en route to his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance in 2016.

But Barr, who is in his fourth season, could be even better if he refrains from his coasting nature.

“I think when he cuts it loose a little bit more, I think that’s when you see him making the explosive plays and kind of the wild plays,” Zimmer said in December.

Over three seasons, Barr has forced six fumbles, knocked down 14 passes and picked off one pass. Those numbers could grow exponentially if Barr can find consistency, which is the No. 1 key for him this offseason, Edwards said.

“The one thing you can control is how hard you play,” Edwards said.

Edwards spoke in general terms after he initially said the biggest thing for Barr is consistency. But the message was clear for Barr to reach his full potential.

“We want to see consistency in (your) play and be the impact player that you are,” Edwards said.

The player Barr is: a jokester, in defensive lineman Tom Johnson’s opinion. Johnson said Barr has maintained his light-hearted personality while improving in his effort, which Johnson said has been good so far.

More importantly, in Johnson’s mind, Barr is making an effort to fill the leadership void that Greenway left when he retired in March after 10 seasons in the NFL, all of which came with the Vikings.

It might be a lot to ask of Barr, a player still on his rookie contract, but he is no stranger to pressure. When Minnesota drafted him ninth overall in the 2014 draft, Barr became the first draft pick of the Mike Zimmer era. Barr was also the second-highest linebacker drafted in Vikings history. Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, who started out at linebacker then moved to defensive end, was the only linebacker drafted higher.

Johnson said Barr is doing a good job so far in his leadership role.

“Guys are gravitating toward him and (linebacker Eric) Kendricks,” Johnson said. “They are doing a great job in being physical and keep on seeing what everybody is doing and staying on top of everything.”

Barr is doing that in addition to his mission to improve his own effort. And Barr will achieve this goal if you ask Kendricks, his roommate at UCLA.

“He comes into every season with a goal in mind,” Kendricks said. “He tries to achieve it and he doesn’t let anyone stop him.”