Jared Allen vaulted into the league' sack lead against the Lions last Sunday, with 17.5 sacks on the season. He needs just five to tie the all-time single-season sack record set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001. When asked to assess Allen's performance, teammate Kevin Williams said mum is supposed to be the word.
"We're not supposed to talk about it," Williams said with a smile. "He's been doing well. I mentioned that to him earlier. I said, 'Let me be the first one, if nobody else has brought it up, (to say) that you've got a chance to do something in history that would be really remarkable and be a plus-sign for this season.' I wished him luck and hopefully he can do it."
Allen said he is aware of his proximity to Strahan's record but said it hasn't been a primary motivational force. He has been enjoying the pursuit but added that Saints head coach Sean Payton is likely going to continue his policy of making Allen miserable with double-teams and blocks from tight ends and running backs as well as his left offensive tackle.
"Honestly, I'm just playing football," Allen said. "Obviously, I know where it's at and I know what it takes to get it. But, that's not my focus. You know what I mean? Any time you focus on something, it goes awry. So I'm just trying to go out there, win a game and beat the Saints. I'm taking whatever opportunities they give me. From my past experience, I know that Coach Payton likes to chip the crap out me, so I'm expecting that."
Williams said that while the discussion of the record is being kept on the down-low, he has been impressed with what he has seen from a relentless Allen, who has been running full steam ahead all season, despite the team struggles of the Vikings.
"It's been awesome watching him play this year," Williams said. "I think he came back really focused and wanting to improve off of last year. He had 11 sacks last year, but to be past that at this point now is really what he was trying to do. He's been going out every week and displaying how great it is."
Allen said if he does get the record, it would be one of the few bright spots in a dismal 2011 season for the Vikings, where losing has not only been commonplace, but the team has found a way to lose in a variety of different ways. Whether he catches Strahan like he has done so many quarterbacks or not, he said he's going to make the most of his final three games – record book or no record book.
"I'm not going to judge my season on whether I get (the record) or not," Allen said. "It's going to be a failed or successful season. I'm close. I know I'm close. I don't know if I'll ever by this close again. That's a heck of a benchmark to get to."
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.