The Vikings’ Anthony Barr, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Wolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns involved in power plays of another kind

May 24, 2018 GMT

In whatever pro sports battles exist between the rich (players, coaches) and ultrarich (owners and the leagues themselves), the path to more money or power on either side usually flows through the notion of leverage.

The more leverage you have, the more likely it is that you will get your way. And if you don’t have leverage, you have to create ways to get it. We’ve seen a few examples of it lately — some more subtle than others.

• What appears to be the most obvious leverage play came about Wednesday when we learned Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr is skipping the team’s voluntary workouts (called organized team activities or OTAs, which will never stop being ridiculous or funny).

Barr is due to make $12.3 million in 2018, but he’s entering the final year of his contract and is presumably looking for an extension. Fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks already got his extension, while Barr, Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter still are waiting for their deals.

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While these workouts are voluntary, players generally attend. Barr’s absence is seemingly a mild but notable reminder that he’d like his situation addressed.

The Vikings don’t have to do anything, of course. They could let him play out the final year of his contract and walk away. But if they want to keep him, they presumably want to keep him happy. And now they know he’s not happy.

• Aaron Rodgers — forever linked to Barr now after the Vikings linebacker broke Rodgers’ collarbone last season — looks to be executing a more subtle power play.

This offseason, the Packers dumped his favorite receiver (Jordy Nelson) and his trusted QB coach (Alex Van Pelt). Last month there was the report that those moves left Rodgers “frustrated” and “emotional.”

On Tuesday he was asked at OTAs about Jason Witten’s comment that wide receiver Dez Bryant is going to wind up with the Packers.

“I’m paid to play quarterback, so I don’t make those decisions,” Rodgers said.

OK, vanilla enough but still laced with a little bit of attitude.

And then, in reference to a WR depth chart that looks thin — or at least unproven — behind Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, Rodgers said, “Well, we like young receivers, so I’m assuming that’s the way they’re going to keep going. I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez, but he’s a talented player.”

Rodgers probably isn’t after more money — he’ll get paid when it’s time — but if you read between the lines he wants (and perhaps thinks he deserves) more of a voice with the Packers. Maybe Green Bay will give it to him if he stops with the comments?

• Finally, we have Karl-Anthony Towns. A podcast last week suggested Towns and the Wolves are “not in a good place internally,” fueling all sorts of trade speculation.

That speculation is silly because the Wolves would be out of their minds to deal Towns, but on a different podcast ESPN’s trusted NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski took it a step further.

“I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Woj said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

If Towns really is unhappy and is looking for leverage — and again, that’s if — Wojnarowski seems to have supplied it for public consumption.