Barr thrilled to be back with Vikings after ‘one of the worst days of my life’
EAGAN, Minn. -- Anthony Barr couldn’t sleep. He lay awake in bed Tuesday morning, staring at the ceiling, wondering if he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
“Just looking for a sign,” Barr said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, March 14, at the Vikings’ TCO Performance Center. “Just trying to figure something out.”
The day before, Barr had verbally agreed to join the New York Jets.
As news spread like wildfire on social media, Barr began to feel sick to his stomach thinking about not playing for the Minnesota Vikings, the team that chose him No. 9 overall in the 2014 NFL draft and was his home for the past five seasons.
“I kind of felt like I jumped and then I was like, ‘Oh man. What did I just do?’ ” Barr said. “I just didn’t feel right about it.”
The combination of not knowing where the Vikings stood in the negotiating process, coupled with the Jets saying all the right things, was enough to tip the scale in the fledgling hours of the NFL’s legal tampering period. But Barr knew something wasn’t right after making his initial decision.
“I called my mom first,” Barr said. “I’m like, ‘I think I made a mistake.’ She was like, ‘You’ve got to fix it.’ ”
That’s when Barr picked up his phone and called his agent Brian Murphy to let him know where he stood. He knew he wanted to stay with the Vikings even though he didn’t know if that was even a possibility anymore.
“It was like already on like everywhere (that I was signing with the Jets),” Barr said. “It was like, ‘This is going to be a nightmare.’ ”
Luckily for Barr, the Vikings wanted him as much as he wanted them, and general manager Rick Spielman was ready to do whatever it took to keep him.
“I guess my philosophy personally is I’m going to fight until the end,” Spielman said. “Until there is nothing left, we might as well keep swinging until we’re knocked out, and we’re always going to do that. That’s the way Coach (Mike) Zimmer coaches, and it’s the way we try to attack things from a front-office standpoint. If we go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”
Although he received a richer contract offer to join the Jets, who wanted to use him more in pass-rush situations than the Vikings have, Barr ultimately signed a five-year, $67.5 million contract that includes $33 million guaranteed and could be worth as much as $77.5 million with incentives.
As for why he chose the Jets initially, Barr said he thought he could “help change” what was going on over there.
“All the respect to the Jets,” Barr said. “It’s just not what I really wanted. I think initially I kind of jumped the gun, even though it was like a full day worth of conversation. I think I was trying to convince myself of something all day. I didn’t have to convince my heart because it already knew what it wanted.”
Perhaps the biggest part in Barr’s decision was his relationship with Zimmer.
“That’s my guy,” Barr said. “I’ll go to war for him any day. Y’all see him as a football coach. He’s so much more than that. He treats us like his children, and he demands a lot, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
It remains to be seen how the Vikings will use Barr. He has expressed interest in being used more in pass-rush situations, though he backed off on that Thursday, saying the coaching staff has always done a great job playing to his strengths.
In that same respect, Zimmer stood up for how the team uses Barr, adding that his impact stretches beyond that fact that he only has 13K sacks in his five-year pro career.
“He’s is a guy that every team we play game plans for,” Zimmer said. “Maybe one team last season didn’t, and we got 10 sacks. If they all game plan for him, a lot of that is him sacrificing himself to be able to let other guys be free on rushes and blitzes and things like that. That’s why he’s such an unselfish guy. We understand no team we ever play is going to say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to worry about Anthony Barr.’ That’s part of it.”
None of that seemed to matter to Barr on Thursday. He was simply happy with way everything worked out.
“I thought Monday was going to be a fun day, and Monday was one of the worst days of my life,” Barr said. “It was a crazy day. I just followed my heart. I did what I wanted to do at the end of the day, and I’m happy with it. I feel so much better than I did 48 or 72 hours ago.
“It’s my life,” Barr added. “I’ve got to live it. Nobody else has to. I should be able to make the choice however I want it. I could change my mind 10 times if I want to. I don’t care what nobody says about that.”
Hearing that, Spielman jokingly chimed in, letting Barr know that the the contract was signed and he could no longer change his mind.
“It was a long time coming,” Barr said. “This is where I wanted to be. This is my home. The bonds I’ve made with my friends, my teammates and my coaches are unbreakable, and it just felt right. This is where my heart was. This is where it’s always been, and this is where it always will be.”