A.J. Barker defends going public: 'I know people will call me psycho'
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Shortly after posting a lengthy blog on Sunday detailing his reasons for quitting the Gophers football team and his intention to transfer, redshirt junior receiver A.J. Barker defended himself in a phone interview with 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson.
"I'll be very scrutinized. My mom is worried. I know people will call me psycho," Barker told Wolfson. "I didn't want to be the guy who said nothing."
Barker, the Gophers' top receiver this season, did not hold back in his blog post. The more than 4,000-word entry brought up a multitude of weighty accusations directed at coach Jerry Kill and his staff.
Among other things, Barker said the Gophers have mishandled the treatment of a right ankle sprain that has kept him sidelined for the team's last three games. He also said a member of Kill's staff directly insulted him because of his religious views.
Barker sent out his initial tweet around 4 p.m. Sunday, announcing his intentions to leave the football program.
"Well, its official," Barker wrote. "I am done playing football for the University of Minnesota and I will be looking to transfer next season for my final yr."
When asked by Wolfson why he why he took to the Internet to vent his grievances instead of first speaking with University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague, Barker said it was "for fear that I would've been labeled the problem."
Barker added: "I know other players have gone through this. ... I contemplated not writing the letter. But people can speak up now."
Barker, who is not on scholarship, leads the Gophers with 577 receiving yards, 30 catches and seven touchdowns in eight games. He hasn't played since suffering the ankle injury in the second quarter of the Gophers' win against Purdue on Oct. 27.
Barker wrote in his blog that an MRI revealed a tear in the anterior talofibular ligament and bruising in his heel.
In a conversation with a group of reporters on Sunday morning, Kill gave no indication of any issues with Barker beyond his ongoing battle with the ankle injury, which he labeled as a "high ankle sprain.
Athletic director Norwood Teague issued a statement on Sunday night saying: "Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker today notifying the Coach that he has quit the team. Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him.
"We understand A.J.'s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms. Our concern first and foremost is student athletes and we wish A.J. well."