MINNEAPOLIS -- In an alternate universe, Anthony Barr is coping with a devastating loss as a member of the New York Jets, rather than celebrating Sunday’s dominant win as a member of the Vikings.
That very easily could have been his reality had he not left money on the table this offseason to remain with the Vikings for the foreseeable future.
Everyone knows the story by now. On the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period, Barr agreed to a deal with the Jets only to have a change of heart and sign a five-year, $67.5 million contract to stay with the Vikings instead.
“This is where I wanted to be,” Barr said then. “It just felt right. This is where my heart was. This is where it’s always been. This is where it always will be.”
In short, the Twin Cities area has become home for Barr since he was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and he looked right at home Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in the Vikings’ dominating 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Fittingly, Barr was the last man out of the tunnel during player introductions, and the announced crowd of 66,714 went berserk as he sprinted onto the field.
“It was awesome,” Barr said. “I’m always geeked up, and that first game is always a little more special. Just happy to get out of here with a win.”
That much felt like a foregone conclusion pretty much from the first play of the game when Barr sprinted into the Falcons’ backfield untouched off the left side and blindsided quarterback Matt Ryan for a sack.
“I’m sure he wasn’t expecting a free runner at him on the first play of the game,” Barr said. “Honestly, I was maybe more surprised than anyone. Maybe even hesitated for half a second, like, ‘This can’t be real, right?’ I’ll take it.”
That set the tone, and the Vikings never looked back.
“It was only right that he got a sack on the first play,” good friend Eric Kendricks said. “That’s how we draw it up. He made a decision (to come back) based on wanting to be here. It was good to see him rewarded.”
Barr finished with six tackles, including that sack, and looked like a man possessed for most of the afternoon, which is exactly what the Vikings will be looking for out of him this season.
“He’s a special player, man,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said. “He can rush. He can play coverage. He’s really good at tackling. We pay him a good bit of money, so he’s expected to do a lot of different things, and he’s living up the hype.’’
As for Barr, he isn’t focused on living up to the hype, or anything like that. He’s just thrilled that in the end things worked out exactly how they were supposed to.
“This is home,” Barr said. “And I’m happy to be back.”
And the Vikings are happy to have him.