Jared Allen returned to practices with the Minnesota Vikings with an admittedly lofty goal in mind, along with several reminders of how hard it would be to achieve those.
Last year, the hard-charging defensive end was credited with 22 sacks, coming up a half sack shy of the NFL single-season record. It's not the 22 he remembers, but the few that got away that kept him from the record.
"I think before you get that close, you're not really sure if it's attainable. You always think it is because you always think if someone did it, I can do it," Allen said. "Being right there and actually leaving some stuff on the field – they took the one away in Green Bay, they gave it a team sack and then there was a couple that were in my arms and I didn't get or there was the one that was that close. At the end of the year I was kind of bummed out."
Despite those near misses at the NFL history, Allen not only believes someone will break Michael Strahan's all-time NFL mark of 22½, but he believes 25 sacks in a season is attainable.
"I think 25 is possible. I think someone will eventually get it," he said. "You look at some of the athletes that are coming. You look at the DeMarcus Wares of the league and the matchups he creates as a 3-4 guy on a running back or something like that, I think it's possible.
"Then again, no one has ever had two 20-sack seasons in a career in the history of the NFL, so someone's got to do that first. I believe it's possible. I believe that 25 is a number that will get hit one year. When? I don't know."
Allen made his way back to the Vikings' mandatory minicamp this year after choosing to not attend the voluntary organized team activities. That's been his usual method of operation, but with a lockout of NFL players last year, he actually saw a benefit when he arrived at training camp: players seemed more refreshed and eager without the ability to work in front of coaches during the offseason.
But, while he wasn't in Minnesota for conditioning and on-field practices in May and earlier this month, he said his training staff in Arizona continues to push him, and this year that may include training at higher altitudes.
"The best way I can lead is by being the best player I can be on the field," Allen said.
"When you start working out again, it's how can I push myself just a little further. I think it always comes down to conditioning."
That approach helped get him to 22 sacks last year and one away from sole possession of the record he still chases.
"At the end of the year, I'm like, damn, 23 away again after being one away … once you realize it's possible, then it actually sticks in your mind that it's a capable goal and I can hopefully reproduce again," Allen said. "Obviously a lot of things went right."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Jared Allen shooting for lofty number in 2012
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