Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was hurting when he woke up Monday morning. But that wasn’t all bad.
“It’s kind of good to be in pain,” he said.
That’s because on Sunday Barr played in a game for the first time in more than a year. After missing the final 14 games last year because of shoulder surgery and the first four this season due to a knee injury, Barr returned for the Vikings’ 19-17 victory over Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It was like old times in that Barr wore the defensive headset and called the plays, and was in for all 68 snaps. He was credited with four tackles.
“It was a lot of fun,” Barr said. “It was everything I hoped it would be.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Barr “came over after, like, the third series (of the game) and kind of said, ‘I feel like myself again.’ ”
Then again, he said that early in the game. Barr admits he wore down as the day went on.
“I was definitely exhausted multiple times,” he said. “But you’ve just got to fight through that. That’s the process of conditioning, just pushing through those times where you feel like you’re going to pass out.”
Barr said Monday afternoon he felt very sore but that he would “be good in a couple days.” Moving forward, he said he still needs to knock off some of the rust.
“I felt a little slow at times,” he said. “But I think that’s normal. As I continue to get more reps out there, that’ll come back and it’ll slow down a little bit. But I felt good. … It was good to get back out there and run around a little bit, and I’ll continue to get better as the time goes on.”
To avoid being released, Barr took a pay cut in March, from $12.9 million in 2021 to $10 million, and had the final two years of his contract taken off the books, making him a free agent next March. Then he missed the first four games this season due to a knee injury that lingered for nearly two months.
“I’d never worked so hard in my life to get to this point,” Barr said of finally returning after missing 18 straight games. “I got a lot of help along the way, but I grinded for this. Just to have the opportunity to play again, man, I couldn’t be more thankful. Just got to keep pushing.”
Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection in his eighth season, has returned at a time when the Vikings defense is finally starting to get into a groove after a shaky start. The Vikings (2-3) allowed an average of 30.5 points in their first two games but have given up an average of just 16 in their past three.
“I think we have a good foundation, if you want to say that,” Barr said. “We may have struggled a little bit early on but we’re finding our way.”
The ending to Sunday’s game was nearly a disaster for the Vikings, who blew a 16-6 lead with less than three minutes left and trailed 17-16 before Greg Joseph made a 54-yard field goal on the final play for the victory. The Lions scored a go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion with 37 seconds left, only needing to drive 20 yards after Vikings running back Alexander Mattison lost a fumble with 1:56 left.
“It was kind of a crazy game, but happy to come out on the right side of it,” Barr said.
And that made Barr’s return that much sweeter for the Vikings.
“It was awesome to see him out there,” center Garrett Bradbury said. “He’s worked really hard to come back.”