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Barr bracing for Packer-fan hate

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Anthony Barr has scrolled through the social media hate messages directed at him from disgruntled fans of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

One of them even arrived in the mail.

When Barr and the Vikings visit Green Bay on Saturday night, the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker is bound to be the primary target of jeers at Lambeau Field.

Barr, after all, delivered the hit that broke Rodgers' collarbone and sidelined him for nearly eight games, derailing a promising season for the Packers.

“It's inevitable. Aaron Rodgers is to Green Bay what LeBron is to Cleveland,” Barr remarked.

“You're responsible in a way for their guy going down, you're going to take some heat,” he reasoned.

“It just comes with the territory.”

No matter how profane or vile the sentiments on Instagram or Twitter, Barr has shrugged them off.

That's befitting of his laid-back Los Angeles personality—a soft-spoken style that's a polar opposite of the strength, instinct, and speed Barr has displayed on the field in Minnesota's dominant defence.

“He's having a great year,” said coach Mike Zimmer, who helped make Barr the first draft pick of his tenure when the Vikings took him ninth overall out of UCLA in 2014.

“He's playing really good," Zimmer noted. ”He's been very active. He's on top of things.

“He makes a lot of checks for the defence.”

With the athleticism of a running back that he started his college career as, Barr has represented the prototype for a linebacker in Zimmer's 4-3 scheme with the ability to blitz by the centre, drop into coverage, and roam from side to side in run support.

He's third on the team with 84 tackles, eight for losses, according to statistics compiled from the coaching staff's film review.

“I didn't really know what to expect or where I was going to fit in, but I soon learned that there was a spot for me and that I could make an impact in different ways," Barr said, leaning his 6'5”, 255-pound frame back in a folding chair at team headquarters after a recent practice.

Smarts are another important asset.

“I'm very situationally aware,” he conceded.

“I feel like they've done a good job, the coaching staff and my teammates, of really easing the learning curve for me.”

Near the end of the 2016 season that was a disappointment for most everyone in purple, Zimmer said Barr sometimes had a “tendency to coast a little bit.”

Perhaps that simply was part of the southern California cool he carries, but the comment from the coach served as motivation for Barr to raise his performance in 2017.

Off the field, he's plenty inspired, too.

His mother, Lori Barr, is the engineer of the fledgling “Raise The Barr” foundation, which is designed to support single moms with college scholarships and day-care assistance, among other benefits.

The focus is on applicants from California and Minnesota, for now. But the goal is to one day spread the program nationally.

“You see these people and think we were once in their shoes," Barr said. ”It just reminds you of where you came from and how you got to where you are.

“It just makes you appreciate everything that's come your way.”

“Raise The Barr” has reached double digits in scholarship awards.

“We do feel like education is the benchmark to breaking the cycle of poverty,” Barr said.

“Education is knowledge is power, as cliché as it sounds.”

Rodgers won't have the opportunity for revenge Saturday night because he's been placed back on injured reserve with the Packers eliminated from post-season contention.

Brett Hundley will start instead, with the NFC North champion Vikings (11-3) chasing a first-round bye for the playoffs.

The fans might not have forgotten Barr's takedown of Rodgers to the U.S. Bank Stadium turf on Oct. 15, but the Packers haven't exactly been dwelling on it more than two months later.

“It's football. You take hits like that, and things happen,” said Packers' linebacker Nick Perry.

“You can't control those things.”

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