Minnesota's leading receiver Barker quits team

Associated Press Modified: November 18, 2012 at 11:46 pm •  Published: November 18, 2012
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker quit the team Sunday in a blistering email to coach Jerry Kill that he subsequently made public through his personal blog, the messy fallout triggered by their conflict about the treatment of the junior's sprained right ankle.

Barker confirmed his decision to depart the Gophers in a phone interview, shortly after he posted the rambling, accusatory and occasionally profane message of more than 4,100 words on his website at ajbarker82.tumblr.com. Barker is a walk-on who has 30 receptions for 577 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games, by far the most on the team.

Kill made no mention of Barker's decision earlier Sunday in his regular media availability. He wasn't available for further comment. In a statement distributed later by the university, athletic director Norwood Teague said Kill tried responding to Barker after receiving his email but was unable to connect with the player.

"We understand A.J.'s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms," Teague said.

Barker was hurt at the end of the Oct. 27 game against Purdue, and he said he aggravated the injury on the field before the Gophers played Michigan on Nov. 3. What was a minor sprain worsened when he felt a cracking sensation in the joint, and he experienced little progress the last two weeks.

Barker said he was forced to practice by Kill last Tuesday, but he was unable to get through warm-ups. An MRI test the next day revealed ligament tears and a bone bruise above his heel, he said.

Then last Thursday, according to Barker, Kill blew up at him in front of the team, claiming he wasn't listening to the athletic trainers or working hard enough on his rehabilitation and yelling that he'd never play for the Gophers again or get a scholarship.

"You demeaned me to a point of no return. You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me," Barker wrote.

Minnesota is 6-5 this season, Kill's second here after arriving from Northern Illinois, and 2-5 in the Big Ten. Barker said he's pained by the reality he'll never play for his hometown school again. The St. Paul native, a star at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, had only one catch combined over his first two seasons until emerging as the team's best downfield threat this fall.

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