Allen Changed His Stripes

The NFL's decision to reduce Jared Allen's suspension from four games to two games shows he's getting a second chance to turn his career around.

Since he was drafted in 2004, Allen has been his own man. In just three short years he's led his life on and off the field with a passion some other players can't find in 20 years.

On the field he's quickly established himself as one of the game's premier young pass rushers. He's certainly one of the most likable and engaging. Allen is also the Chiefs best defensive player. No other defender has been more consistent over the past three seasons.

Despite that, most people have forgotten how good Allen has become because of a pair of DUI arrests. These incidents have tarnished his image and raised concerns with the Chiefs' brass concerning how serious Allen is about becoming a standout NFL player.

Then last February things became ugly and personal. Allen and his inexperienced agent, Ken Harris, demanded a $50 million contract – a figure that now pales in comparison to the $72 million-deal Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney signed recently.

Still, Allen demanded a trade and Harris ended up getting slapped around by Chiefs President Carl Peterson. The two sides haven't talked much since.

The situation may be uncomfortable for both parties, but one thing that can't be ignored is the fact that Allen has turned his life around. Gone are the alcohol-filled late nights. In their place are more intense personal workouts and a lifestyle more suited for a long NFL career. I'm not sure if wild boar hunting is the best way to get your body in shape, but it works for Allen.

That aside, the young defensive end has done everything asked of him by the courts, the Chiefs and more importantly the self-imposed changes he demanded of himself.

The NFL obviously reduced Allen's punishment because of his recent turnaround. Unlike other players in his position, such as Tennesee's Pacman Jones (who continues to grab the spotlight off the field), Allen is showing genuine repentance.

He knew if he was going to grow up, now was the time, and he's done that.

As the offseason workouts approached many wondered if Allen would show up. He did, and to his credit was in the best shape of his career. He was chiseled and appeared to many observers to be a changed man.

He stood up like a man and admitted his past failures. He answered every single question, didn't make excuses and seemed at peace with himself.

Now there is hope Allen will remain a Chief beyond this season. But it wouldn't be possible if he hadn't made an internal decision to follow the right path.

So many NFL players never figure it out. With a lot of cash in your pocket, an entourage and a nightlife where you're worshipped by the opposite sex, a decadent lifestyle can be enticing for even the most straight-and-narrowed individual in the game.

For a guy like Allen with an engaging personality, that lifestyle was like a drug. He was a player off the field and felt no pain until his second DUI conviction.

That's when it all changed. From that moment on he has lived a life more suited to attaining long-term financial security.

He's already been assured by the organization that if he comes back from the suspension, plays to his ability, and stays away from the police blotter, the Chiefs will work on a long-term contract extension during the 2007 regular season.

Despite being so public about wanting to leave Kansas City, Allen really would like to end his career with the Chiefs. That's a good sign for both parties, who are now in different places than they were last February.

Both need each other and both sides would be foolish not to get a deal done. Despite what you see or read, Allen needs the Chiefs and the Chiefs need Allen.

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