There are times you would think that the NFL has better things to do than critique player choreography with penalties. But that is exactly what the NFL officiating cops have done, and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is a person of interest in the ongoing fine cop investigation.
There is a fine line when celebration becomes taunting. There is also a fine line when celebration is completely unnecessary, like a player making an open field tackle with his team down by 21 and celebrating like he had made a fourth-and-1 stop in the Super Bowl. But there is also a fine line between maintaining order and getting picky.
At question with the league as it pertains to Allen is his post-sack celebration – his infamous calf-roping simulation. He hasn't been instructed that he can't do it, but it's in the delivery that there is a perceived problem. If either of his knees touch the ground during the celebration, Allen will be get hit with a personal foul penalty, which would negate any sacks he may register. The only allowable celebration that a player can drop to one or both knees is a prayer gesture.
Never one that likes being singled out – Allen was vocal and adamant about his displeasure with being branded a dirty player after a couple of low hits on quarterbacks – and he came prepared for questioning with tongue firmly in cheek Monday after practice. When asked his thoughts on the league ruling, Allen said he might have a plan as good as Terrell Owens putting a Sharpie in his sock to autograph a touchdown ball.
"I'm going to carry some cardboard with me and slide it under my knee," Allen said, so he knee wouldn't actually tough the turf. "It's legal, right?"
While Allen was good-natured about the league directive concerning him, he said he was a little surprised how the whole thing came down. He found out about it through head coach Brad Childress prior to the Detroit game. Even Childress said he was surprised to receive that phone call a couple days before the Detroit game.
"Somebody must have called it to somebody's attention, but it has been going on for a long time and everybody was certainly aware of it when we started this season," Childress said. "It wasn't on the DVD that we get for rules changes. (Referee) Ed Hochuli was very good about it before the game just in my conversations with him. They weren't going to try and make an issue out of it.
The most nonsensical part of the decision for Allen was that it is something he has done his entire career and, without warning during the season, he's given a cease-and-desist order.
"They didn't call me," Allen said. "They called Coach (Childress). I found out Saturday before the (Lions) game. I don't know what it is. They decide to tell me in Week 3 after seven years of doing it. Whatever. Rules are rules I guess. I just won't put my knee on the ground."
One would have thought Allen would have been able to "grandfather in" his celebratory dance because, like other players with signature moves ranging from the Shawn Merriman machine-gun arm pumping to LaDainian Tomlinson's touchdown finger-roll, it's what he is identified with. It's his big move on the Madden video game. To curtail it doesn't make sense to his teammates.
"He's done it forever," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "It's a fun thing and it's something he's known for. To say he can't do it or not do it like he does doesn't make a lot of sense."
Allen joked that he doesn't really have to concern himself too much with being penalized at this point because it's basically been a moot point to date. Through three games, he has just one sack, but he has been subject to a lot of attention from opposing offensive coordinators – getting consistently double-teamed or chipped by tight ends and running backs to slow down his pass rush.
He said the thing about sacks is that there can be a drought for a while and then the floodgates open. He said he found himself in a similar position last year and finished the season with 14.5 sacks.
"They come in bunches," Allen said. "At this point last year, I had two. All of a sudden, they come in bunches. We're not worried about it up front. We're doing some good things and we're going to continue to grind. You look at the game last night. They were talking about how the Giants weren't doing anything and the pulled out 10 in a game."
Allen said he will continue to do his celebration, but will need to remind himself not to drop to a knee. He said if it was a monetary penalty only, he would continue his brand-name celebration to thumb his nose at the league. But giving up 15 yards? That's a fine he can't afford.
"It is what it is," Allen said. "I wouldn't be so mad, but it's the 15 yards (assessed for the penalty) that really gets you. A fine? I'll eat the money."
Allen was unclear if there will be any new choreography, but he isn't going to abandon his time-honored sack dance – "I ain't just going to give it up," he said defiantly – but, like most of the rest of us. He's wondering what the big deal is? It seems like much ado about nothing.
When asked if he believed the NFL should have better things to do, Allen was typically frank and to the point – summing up the feelings of most that have heard this bizarre league mandate. Aren't there more important things the league can do than police sack dances?
"I don't know," Allen said. "Getting that CBA done, I guess."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Allen doesn't dance around sack-dance issue
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