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Anthony Barr's ailing right knee has "turned the corner," he said, and the Vikings' Pro Bowl linebacker is hoping to return soon from the injury that has lingered since training camp.
Barr practiced Thursday, stringing together back-to-back sessions for the first time since he suffered the unspecified injury in early August. Whether Barr, who has been limited in practices, will make his season debut Sunday against Seattle is still unknown. The priority is making sure his right knee — on which he wears a compression sleeve during practice — is fully recovered first.
"I would love nothing more than to be playing," Barr said Thursday. "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."
Barr said his knee responded better Thursday morning — after a limited practice Wednesday — than his first attempt to return earlier this month. Barr practiced once in the leadup to the Sept. 12 loss in Cincinnati, but the soreness the next morning led to another two weeks on the sideline.
"It just wasn't getting better, so I took some time to get it right," he said. "I think I'm approaching that point."
Barr hasn't played in a regular season game in over a year, having missed 14 games last season while on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. He also didn't play in the preseason. His strength and conditioning is another hurdle to clear before returning.
According to Barr, there will likely be a "plan" to ease him back, which could include playing in only the base defense — when three linebackers are on the field — while Nick Vigil plays every down, including the two-linebacker nickel defense, with Eric Kendricks. Barr has to be fully healed first, co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said.
"It's important that he knows this isn't something that's going to linger the whole year," Adam Zimmer said. "We were cautious with him so that he felt right and felt 100 percent. Now mentally, I think he's in a good spot where he knows 'I'm going to be fine, I just have to make sure I have the strength and conditioning and all the things that come with playing a real football game.' "
The latest injury came at a crushing time for Barr, who accepted a pay cut this spring to stay in Minnesota so his final year with the Vikings wasn't spent on IR. His plan to make at least one more run in a Vikings uniform was temporarily sidetracked.
"It was bad," Barr said. "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."