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Zulgad’s Roundup: Will Anthony Barr’s long absence really come to an end on Sunday?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 25, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (55) reacts after making a play during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

While Mike Zimmer said he thinks Anthony Barr will return for the Vikings game Sunday against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium, the reality is the team clearly expected the veteran linebacker to be on the field a few weeks ago. That’s the only reason they didn’t put him on injured reserve after he missed most of training camp because of a knee issue.

Placing Barr on IR would have sidelined him for three weeks and cleared a roster spot, but the Vikings thought he would return either in Week 2 at Arizona or Week 3 against Seattle. Instead, Barr has yet to play and the Vikings have won only once in four games.

There are many who think the Vikings should have let Barr sign with the Jets as a free agent in 2019 instead of allowing him to return at the last minute, but Zimmer always has valued what Barr brings to his defense and that’s why the Vikings again kept him last March on a restructured deal instead of releasing him.

The Vikings were trying to free-up salary cap space and Barr agreed to a reported reduction from $12.9 million to $10 million in salary and bonuses with a fully guaranteed base salary of $9.4 million. Barr has $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses so by not playing he is costing himself money. He also has a $100,000 workout bonus.

Zimmer saying he thinks Barr will make his season debut on Sunday — it would be his first game since Week 2 of last year when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Indianapolis — is interesting because the coach usually takes a wait-and-see approach with injured players.

Barr’s restructured contract has given him reason to be cautious with trying to play through injury. He was originally signed through 2023, but now will be a free agent after this season.

Zimmer’s desire to get Barr back on the field has grown as the Vikings defense has fallen to 25th in the NFL against the run. Minnesota has given up 135.5 yards per game and more than 100 yards to each team it has faced. The Browns rushed for a season-high 184 yards on Sunday. Barr had been listed as questionable for that game but many expected he would play.

So will Barr return against the Lions? Ultimately, that will be up to him.

  • Interesting stat No. 1 tweeted by MN Researcher: Mike Zimmer entered this season 17-39 in his coaching career against teams that finish with winning records and, assuming Arizona and Cleveland end up above .500, he is now looking at 17-41. Zimmer’s record against winning teams since Kirk Cousins arrived in 2018 is 5-21. Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll and Mike Tomlin all entered the season with winning records against teams that finished above .500.
  • Interesting stat No. 2 tweeted by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus: The Vikings have used their rookies for only nine snaps through four games this season, easily the fewest in the NFL. The Seahawks are next at 46, followed by the Rams (91), Titans (142) and Buccaneers (144).
  • Zimmer has won seven consecutive games against the Lions dating to Nov. 23, 2017. That ended the Vikings’ three-game losing streak against the Lions.
  • Kirill Kaprizov played in his first preseason game on Monday night — also his first with his new five-year, $45 million contract — and the Wild winger picked up right where he left off. Kaprizov scored a goal and added two assists in a 3-1 victory over Colorado. He also got his first opportunity to play on the Wild’s new top line with center Joel Eriksson Ek and Mats Zuccarello. Victor Rask and Ryan Hartman spent much of last season as the center on a line with Kaprizov and Zuccarello, but Eriksson Ek is the team’s best center and the move is a logical one. Zuccarello had two assists, including a beauty on the Kaprizov goal, and Eriksson Ek also had an assist.
  • Hartman now occupies the center spot on the line with Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway. Eriksson Ek spent most of last season on that line because coach Dean Evason did not want to break up the chemistry the trio established. However, the hard-working Hartman should be a perfect fit. … Rask has been moved to left wing and played on a line with new center Frederick Gaudreau and right winger Kevin Fiala.
  • The Wild claimed Plymouth, Minn.-native Rem Pitlick off waivers from the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The center played college hockey for the Gophers and was a third-round pick of the Predators in 2016. His father, Lance Pitlick, also played for the Gophers and was drafted by the North Stars in 1986. Lance, a defenseman, spent eight seasons in the NHL, playing for Ottawa and Florida. Rem had two assists in 10 games with the Predators last season.
  • It looks as if Evason is going to use Fiala on the penalty kill to start the season. “He’s got tremendous instincts of what offensive players are going to do,” Evason said. “He’s got a great stick. We found when we used him that little bit there last year, it commits him defensively.”
  • The Wild’s regular-season opener on Oct. 15 in Anaheim will be carried by ESPN+ and Hulu but won’t be available on Bally Sports North.
  • SKOR North Scoop Master Darren “Doogie” Wolfson tells us that there was dialogue between the Twins and reps for center field Byron Buxton after the Buxton camp turned down a multiyear offer from the team in July. However, there haven’t been talks in recent weeks.
  • While there has been speculation that the Twins might trade Buxton this offseason, rather than lose him as a free agent, don’t expect anything to happen until there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and its players association. That might require a long wait. The CBA expires Dec. 1 and we could be headed for the first MLB work stoppage since the 1994 season when the World Series was cancelled.