MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Eric Kendricks arrived in Minnesota from UCLA he realized it was going to be different.
“How could you get used to this?” Kendricks said. “I have become a little more acquainted to it. I have jackets now, when I first moved out here I didn’t have a jacket, I just had hoodies.”
He had a former teammate waiting for him who would play beside him on his way to the Pro Bowl — Anthony Barr, who, like this team, has been very good at the end of this season.
“I think we really started to figure it out toward the end of the season,” Barr said. “All season really played pretty well, but I think towards the end we had a little more focus knowing it was going to be a stretch run.”
A big reason the UCLA linebackers have had success: what’s in front of them, literally, in Linval Joseph.
“He’s a big guy, he takes up a lot of blockers and he’s a playmaker, a huge playmaker on defense,” Kendricks said. “You got to account for him and it allows me to run side-to-side like I like doing,”
And with that, and with success, there is an attitude that has been formed on defense. It is not a loud group. It is a tight-knit group.
“We’re very close, very cohesive unit,” Barr said. “We complement each other really well and pretty unselfish group. It all works together and happy to have these guys as my teammates.”
Like the team, it’s a learning process, and Kendricks has learned that this league is the big leagues, that it moves quick and that it is unforgiving.
“That was definitely one of the hardest parts, the playbook and aspects like that,” Kendricks said. “But like I said, this is my third year, I’m starting to pick up on things, maybe presnap, down and distance, stuff like that.”
And what they both have learned about their new home is that it can get loud, and it can matter, especially in the playoffs.
“I think it’s as good as any home field advantage in the NFL. I think any time we step on that field we feel confident and we feel like we have a chance to win, so hopefully we can continue to play some more games,” Barr said. “We’ll get at least one.”