Vikings' Barr not surprised by Rodgers fallout
Anthony Barr's return to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday, Dec. 23, will be different for the Vikings linebacker. The question is whether it will turn ugly.
Barr's Oct. 15 hit on Aaron Rodgers all but ended the Green Bay quarterback's season, and started a competitive spiral that has the Packers out of the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Fans will no doubt have words for Barr, and when it was suggested Thursday, Dec. 21, they might be in good humor, Barr said, "Uh, doubtful."
Barr has been pilloried on Twitter for his hit that broke Rodgers' collarbone in the Vikings' 23-10 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium, no doubt enflamed when Rodgers told television host Conan O'Brien off camera that Barr added insult to injury by flipping him off after the play, footage later posted on YouTube.
Barr denied it. This week, Packers tackle David Bakhtiari sent an ambiguous message while talking to Wisconsin reporters this week.
"I'm not saying we're going to headhunt him, that's not at all what I'm trying to say," he told them. "But, I mean, we'll definitely play to the whistle with a guy like that."
Asked for his thoughts on that, Barr replied, "I don't know. I mean, I think you're supposed to play to the whistle regardless of who you're playing, so, I don't know. I'm going to go play my game."
Teammates said this week they hoped the anger comes from fans and not from players who, they believe, understand what happens in football, and that Barr's play was not dirty.
"It wasn't a dirty hit, in my opinion; other people might see it differently," Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said. "I hope that as professionals we can see what it is, and play the game for what it is as professionals. What the fans want to think is fine with us; that's a whole different can of worms. I hope that as professionals doing a job, we can just go out there and play the game as it's supposed to be played."
Packers receiver Davante Adams will miss Saturday's game, and possibly next week's season finale against Detroit, after a blindside, helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. after a Rodgers interception last week at Carolina. Davis was suspended one game for the hit, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week that Barr's hit is in a different category.
"Those hits are totally different," McCarthy said. "The hit on Aaron was definitely within the framework of playing aggressive and things like that, but the hit on Davante Adams, there's not place for that in the game."
Still, Barr said he wasn't surprised by the reaction to his hit.
"No, not really," he said. "It's Aaron Rodgers, man, one of the faces of the NFL. It's gonna happen."
Regardless, Barr predicted he won't be distracted come the Saturday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
"I don't think it will be too much of a factor," he said. "I'm pretty good at tuning that stuff out."
The Vikings can secure a first-round playoff bye with a victory at Green Bay and an Eagles loss to Oakland on Monday night, Dec. 25.
Minnesota hasn't had a week off since their Oct. 30-Nov. 5 bye.
"Every team at this time of year can use a week off," Sirles said. "It's a long season. I mean, really, we've been going since late July, and every team going into the playoffs can use a week off just to get your bodies right, because anything can happen in a playoff game. It doesn't matter if it's a wild-card game, it doesn't matter if you're the No. 1, 2 or 3 seed. Anything can happen.
"To play for a bye is huge so you can rest your body and give it that big, deep breath before you make your final berth."