Vikings rookies get first taste of NFL, but some have to go back to school

Vikings first-round pick Anthony Barr has to return to UCLA, which is on the quarters system, to finish his school year before he can rejoin the Vikings.

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Anthony Barr wasn’t able to spend the week after being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings focused on football.

Barr, Minnesota’s first pick at No. 9 overall, had to go back to UCLA to finish school. He returned last weekend to participate in the Vikings’ rookie minicamp and had the first chance to put on an NFL helmet and jersey.

"I looked good, man," Barr said last Friday at the opening of rookie minicamp. "It was pretty sweet. So hopefully I’ll be able to play as good as I look."

Barr and the rest of Minnesota’s draft picks, rookie free-agent signees and several tryout players got the first chance to participate in an NFL practice. The Vikings held their three-day rookie minicamp to acclimate their players to the team and the league.

However, Barr has to take another timeout.

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Once the camp ended, he was headed back to campus, one of three Minnesota draft picks not finished with school because their respective colleges are on the quarters system. Barr, defensive end Scott Crichton and guard David Yankey won’t join the team full-time until later this summer.

"Yeah, it kind of sucks," Barr said. "I got to go back for about a month. So hopefully I can learn and hopefully they’ll continue to send me stuff, send me film. It’s going to be more mental than physical, really. So when I get to camp I can get my feet on the ground and just roll."

Barr said he’ll continue to concentrate on the techniques and game plans the Vikings provided this week, but the challenge is real for Barr, Crichton and Yankey.

One way the three plan to keep in contact with coaches is Skype, the online video networking program that can allow Crichton and others the chance to still speak with their coaches face to face.

Crichton, Minnesota’s third-round draft pick, was already making plans to speak with defensive line coaches Andre Patterson and Robb Akey by Skype. Like Barr, Crichton won’t return until June.

"It’s a huge disadvantage," Crichton said. "Everyone else is learning. But at the same time, I still get the plays they have to do, the clips of the practices on my iPad. That kind of helps but the whole one-on-one thing with my coach, the vets coming in, too, that’s a big disadvantage I’m missing out on."

Yankey, a fifth-round pick, will miss the time, as well, but he got his contract out of the way by signing a four-year deal with the Vikings prior to the minicamp.

"It’s awesome," Yankey said. "It’s always a relief to not have to worry about the administrative stuff and just play football."

Football will come in due time for Yankey, Barr and Crichton.

"I think the guys that we drafted that are on the quarters system, the biggest thing is, really, the techniques," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I want them to learn how we’re lifting, how we approach the different techniques, the different coverages part of things. And then the offensive line, with Yankey, more about the techniques with him, play calls, the terminology, things like that — things they can take and go back to their schools and work on. The other guys will be here, so it’s not difficult."

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All of Minnesota’s rookies were trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible last weekend, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, selected in the first round after Barr. Bridgewater was one of two quarterbacks playing during minicamp, with Missouri Western undrafted rookie Travis Partridge the other.

Bridgewater, clear from his educational responsibilities at Louisville, said he’s been at the team facility "every second I get."

Bridgewater has already had the chance to work with veteran quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder.

"Just trying to catch up, get up to speed," Bridgewater said. "Matt and Christian have been here for a while now. Those guys have taken me under their wing and been teaching me, whether it’s from a field standpoint or a film standpoint just trying to catch me up to speed."

When asked if he’s geared towards winning the starting job right away or "paying his dues," Bridgewater responded: "My attitude really is just to get better each and every day and try to make the guys in the room that I’m in better players also and just the guys on the team better guys. I’m always willing and eager to get better each and every day."

Zimmer has noticed Bridgewater’s retention of the information he’s been given and the leadership qualities, saying Bridgewater has a "good presence" and a "good command."

"You know, one of the things I noticed about him, even when we were out there with rookies after the Phase 2, they would call a play, and they were just running one route, so he would re-call the whole play to himself, basically, just so he gets all the terminology down and the whole thing," Zimmer said. "I was impressed with that part of what he did, just how bad he wants to learn. It’s not like, ‘Hey, I’m throwing an out now.’ He would say the whole formation, the whole play, what it’s on and go from there, just repeat it as he goes. That was impressive."

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