Jared Allen is an anomaly with the Vikings. On a roster that is getting younger all the time, Allen is something of a dinosaur as he enters his 10th season. Of players on the 2013 roster, only Kevin Williams has played longer than Allen and he was in his typical media-friendly form Thursday as he was barraged with questions about what is coming for the Vikings in the 2013 season, starting Sunday at Detroit.
Allen said last week that he hasn't felt right for almost two years. A significant shoulder injury suffered during his 22-sack season in 2011 lingered throughout 2012. After having offseason surgery, he said he is fired up for the new season and feels as good as he has in a long time.
Coming off his near-record-setting sack season in 2011, Allen is expecting to get a lot of attention from the Lions offense Sunday. With left tackle Riley Reiff starting opposite him Sunday – making just his second career start on the left side – it's expected that Allen will see a lot of chips from backs, receivers and tight ends, and double-team help from guards. But, given that he was constantly harassed by players other than left tackles last year, it won't be anything new for him.
"I expect it all the time," Allen said. "Last year, I think I saw more chips and doubles than I've ever seen in my life. It comes down to how do you play on first and second down? If you allow them to get into a situation where their check-down football is good, they're running the ball and they're in second-and-short and third-and-short (situations), then their game plan is open. If you can force them to go down the field, that's how it opens up."
This is far from Allen's first rodeo and he's been through the same regimen for years. Some older players could get complacent about the start of a new year, but Allen still believes he has a lot to prove to continue to build his Hall of Fame body of work.
"Sunday is always special," Allen said. "The day it becomes another game is the day you walk away. You're not doing yourself and your team the good service of being out there if it's just another game. I'm always excited about it. It's a new year. It's a new season. I still haven't won a Super Bowl, so I have plenty of things I need to achieve. Every year I feel I've got to earn the respect of my colleagues and I try to make a difference and help my team win football games."
As he begins the final year of the contract he signed with the Vikings, Allen's long-term future is up in the air. The fact that he has been paid every dollar of the lucrative contract he signed speaks to the importance he has to the Vikings defense.
The best thing for him is that he is entering a game fully healthy for the first time in 22 months and is feeling ready to make 2013 a special season for him and the Vikings. Whether his career ends in Minnesota isn't a short-term concern. He's ready to get to work and, with his playing clock ticking, he is feeling younger this year than he did last season and is looking to turn back the clock.
"Honestly, I'm focused on this year and trying to win a championship here," Allen said. "I feel good. If you would have asked me last year, I would've said it was ringing like Big Ben. I was beat up. I was hurt. You start wondering: Is age getting the best of you? But, after surgery, after getting healed up, I feel great. I was able to train again and work out. I feel young. Part of having a young locker room, they really keep you young. I'm ready to rock. Whatever God's plan is for me, that's the focus – if it's three years, five years, one year, I don't know. We'll got out and play. All I know is I've still got the passion to play and, as long as I'm able to do it at a high level, I'm going to compete."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Allen's clock done ‘ringing like Big Ben'
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