After missing the final 14 games of last season because of a shoulder injury, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was eager to return to the field for the start of this season. Then he had a setback.

Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, injured his right knee early in training camp and has missed the first two games. He returned to practice this week on a limited basis and said Thursday he is feeling much better. But he’s “not sure yet” whether he will play in Sunday’s home opener against Seattle.

Anthony Barr
Anthony Barr

“It happened kind of earlier on in camp, and I’m just trying to battle through it,” Barr said in his first comments about the injury. “It just wasn’t getting better, so I took some time to get it right. … It sucks. It was bad. But I think you kind of play the hand you’re dealt, you know? So I think the worst is behind me, which feels good. Just have to continue to move forward, progress and stack these good days.”

Barr wouldn’t divulge any specifics about what has been wrong with his knee. For a period in August and early September, he was able to practice on several occasions before again having to sit out.

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“I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to be ready by the beginning of the season,” said Barr, in his eighth season with the Vikings. “So, when I practiced a couple weeks ago and then didn’t practice the next day, I think that was just me trying to test to see where I was.”

Barr suffered a torn pectoral muscle at Indianapolis in the second game of 2020, so he now has missed 16 straight games. He wants to play against the Seahawks, but doesn’t want to risk anything.

“I would love nothing more than to be playing,” Barr said. “But it’s something that obviously I want to make sure I’m 100 percent. I think I owe it to myself and owe it to the team not to put myself out there if I’m not going to be at full speed. But I feel like I’m approaching that point.”

Vikings co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer didn’t want to speculate on the chances of Barr playing Sunday but agreed that Barr is getting close to returning.

“We just want to get him right,” Zimmer said. “I know he was frustrated for a while there, just how long it’s taken to get back. Like I told him, I said, ‘We want you to be 100 percent. We want you to be ready to go.’ Now, I think he’s turned a corner and hopefully sooner rather than later we’re going to have him available. … He knows that this isn’t something that’s going to linger the whole year.”

Zimmer and Vikings safety Harrison Smith both said Barr’s mental state has improved as his knee has gotten better.

“He wants to be on the field more than anybody,” Smith said. “He studies every week like he’s going to play and being out all of last year, it was eating him up and then it kind of makes it worse not getting back this year. He seems to be doing well (now).”

Whenever Barr does return, he said there likely will “be a plan in place” to perhaps limit his snaps. Zimmer, though, said the Vikings would need to “see how it goes during the game.”

To avoid being released, Barr took a pay cut in March, from $12.9 million a season to $10 million, but had the final two years of his contract taken off the books. He is due to become a free agent next March.

He was replaced in the first two games by Nick Vigil as an every-down linebacker. Vigil has looked good, and he returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown in last Sunday’s 34-33 loss at Arizona.

“He’s playing great,” Barr said. “He’s doing everything he’s asked to do, and then some.”