Notebook: Anthony Barr is ready to begin his crash course
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Anthony Barr has practiced just seven times with the Minnesota Vikings since he was drafted on May 8 with the ninth overall pick.
Barr, 22, took part in his first NFL training camp practice on Friday, but wasn't concerned about being behind his teammates after missing most of June workouts to finish his degree at UCLA, by NFL rule.
"Just trying to get my assignments, figure out what I'm doing," Barr said. "Find my role and my identity with this team."
Barr has filled in as the strong-side linebacker with the first-team defense, but without pads and contact, it's difficult to decipher struggle or progress along the front seven. The Vikings can begin wearing pads on the third practice, which is Sunday.
While he was away in California in June, Barr remained in contact with Vikings coaches, including visits from linebackers coach Adam Zimmer.
But without knocking heads in training camp so far, Barr has been able to continue his focus on placement in a relatively amoebic defense compared to the previous Tampa-2 scheme that held court with the Vikings since the mid-2000s.
"It allows me to play free," Barr said. "There are a lot of positions in a lot of places that I'll be at on the field. There's a lot of versatility that comes with this defense. I think I fit that role."
The Vikings addressed their linebacker corps with two main additions in free agent signing Jasper Brinkley and Barr. Both are figured to be starters, but there's plenty of ground to gain for the rookie.
"We're going to push him really hard," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Try to figure out where we can get him to go and how fast we can get him to go. We have very high expectations for him."
Rudolph looking forward to 2016 Vikings?
Tight end Kyle Rudolph is ready for a breakout season in 2014, but he's already looking ahead to the Vikings' future despite his pending free agency.
General manager Rick Spielman said on Thursday "hopefully we'll be able to look at something in the future," regarding an extension for Rudolph, though no deal appears imminent.
"All I know is I'm under contract this year," Rudolph said. "I want to stay here, I've made that evident throughout the offseason. I like it here. I like the direction the Vikings are going in."
The Vikings will play two seasons at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium before the new $1B stadium opens at the old Metrodome site in 2016.
As of right now, Rudolph expects to be there.
"I'm looking forward to playing in the new stadium," Rudolph said.
Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray played against former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, or 'Sweetness,' for a couple seasons after he was drafted as a defensive back in 1985.
On Friday, Payton would've turned 60 had he not passed in 1999 from complications due to his autoimmune liver disease. Gray's Los Angeles Rams lost the 1985 NFC Championship game to Payton's Bears en route to their Super Bowl championship.
"He was more like a linebacker's mentality," Gray said. "He was going to take the fight to you. He wasn't going to run out of bounds, was going to punish you and keep your feet moving."
Remind you of anyone?
"It's the same mode," Gray said. "Adrian Peterson, when you look at him, physical runner, not going to shy away from contact. I'm a defensive guy and I'm always amazed watching him on offense."
Payton (16,726 yards) is second on the all-time rushing list behind Emmit Smith. Peterson (10,115) needs 6,612 more rushing yards to pass one of the greats.
• Josh Robinson filled in for Captain Munnerlyn (hamstring) in the base defense, with a rotation of Shaun Prater, Jabari Price, Kendall James and others filling in the slot.
• Robert Blanton, Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith saw the lion's share of top reps at safety as Andrew Sendejo (back) watched from the sidelines.
• An interesting defensive formation included three safeties on Friday as Mistral Raymond and Blanton played deep while Smith roved around the line of scrimmage acting as a nickel corner or third linebacker.
• Charting 11-on-11 passes in the final team drill, the pecking order continued to be Matt Cassel-Teddy Bridgewater-Christian Ponder. Cassel completed 2-of-5 passes with one batted down at the line by Linval Joseph. Bridgewater went 2-for-3 with his only incompletion an overthrow to Jerome Simpson on a deep route down the sideline. Ponder also went 2-for-3, missing on a deep connection but also tucking and running on two different dropbacks.
• Price had a pass breakup against receiver Adam Thielen, who made a few impressive grabs of his own on the day. Bridgewater was the quarterback on the play.
• Blanton almost had a second interception on the day (first in 7-on-7 drills) when he shadowed Simpson's hip on a deep route and dropped a pick after Simpson bobbled the catch behind his back and into the air.