Regardless of whether the Vikings win or lose Sunday, it will be a turning point in the history of the Vikings franchise. It will be the last game at the Metrodome and, depending on whose opinion you believe, it will also be the last game for head coach Leslie Frazier and defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
At his weekly press conference, Allen acknowledged that, although his lack of a contract extension has made news for much of the 2013 season, he's finally at the last game of his current contract. He has deflected comments about his future with the Vikings, but the thought will cross his mind Sunday when he plays the last game of the season, which could also be his last game as a Viking.
"I'd be lying if I said I don't think about it, but it's not what's on my mind right now," Allen said. "I've got to prepare for this game. I'm trying to go out the way I want in this Metrodome, and have this last game be something special. Kevin and I talked about it earlier this week, saying we just want to let loose and make it a game to remember, from a win standpoint, from our performances, the crowd, the energy level, all of that. I think it's a special moment. It's on my mind, but not so much as far as what's going to happen in the future. That's kind of out of my control. I try not to worry about things I have no control over. I'm just going out and playing ball, and glad God gave me one more opportunity to go out and play for the fans of Minnesota, to play for this team and play in a building where I've had a ton of success. From that standpoint, that's how I think about it."
Allen maintains he has no idea what the future is going to bring, but he is at peace with where he is at in this stage of his career and, if things don't work out in terms of a new contract with the Vikings, his career will continue next year and beyond. The biggest thing that came out of his conversation with the media is that he isn't letting the uncertainties get to him. He's seen a lot in his Hall of Fame career and isn't sweating those things that are out of his control.
"When those times come, I'll deal with that then," Allen said. "At this stage of my career, I've got to talk to my family, pray about it and see where the Lord wants me, and that's kind of how I'm approaching it. I was just talking with a buddy of mine this morning, just about how different it is this time around. There's no stress. What's going to happen is what's going to happen. When you're younger you're trying to figure out all this craziness, and when you look back you realize there's a plan and it's better than any kind I could've hatched. So I'm just enjoying the ride, honestly. If this ends up being my last game here, then it's been one of the greatest rides I've ever been on. It's been a great six years. This community will always be a part of me, I'll always be a part of it, and it's one of those things where I just have so many blessings that have come from here."
What Allen's future holds in the NFL, if he doesn't come back to the Vikings, is a complete unknown at this point. His decision on where he plays will involve several factors but, like many veteran players have done in the past, he will consider going to Super Bowl contender because, for all the individual honors he has won, he doesn't have a ring yet and that has been his goal since he came to the NFL a decade ago as a fourth-round rookie.
"That's a big part," Allen said. "This is the ultimate team sport. That's what we're all playing for, year in and year out. The league is kind of like Groundhog's Day. Every year everybody's trying to accomplish the same goal, and it's what have you done for me that year? When you start out, younger in your career, the individual accolades come along with that team goal. You're trying to build a name for yourself amongst your peers. You're trying to accomplish set goals and through that you're helping your team become better, right? (Chiefs head coach Dick) Vermeil told me one time that football is an individual sport. The best way you can help our team be better is by being the best defensive end you can be. And that's always been my mindset, and you win games along the process by trying to be the best you can, get Pro Bowls, All-Pros and stuff like that, so those are great. I've accomplished those, and hopefully if I still play I can continue to accomplish those, but the ultimate goal is that ring."
Allen says he isn't resigned to the fact that Sunday will be his last game as a Viking, although it has seemed like a foregone conclusion since the beginning of the season that this would likely be his last year in Minnesota. If that happens, he will have plenty of fond memories of playing for the Vikings and in the Metrodome in front of the raucous home fans. But, in the end, business may take precedence and, if it is his last game, he's going to enjoy the moment and the hundreds of moments he has had in his six years as a fixture of the Vikings defense.
"You guys (in the media), no disrespect to you guys, but you guys put a lot of words in everybody's mouth," Allen said. "I've said all along I'll cross that bridge when it comes. Me and the Vikings have been on the same page throughout this whole thing. I'm not naïve to the point that I don't understand the business side of this or understand the trends that have happened in the past. So I understand and they understand I got a decision to make too. So when the time's right we'll sit down and see how it plays out. If I worry about what's going to happen in the future then I'm not giving everything I've got to this game or to this year. I decided at the beginning of the year I'm just not going to focus on it. Some things are out of your control and this one is out of your control. We're moving forward. When the smoke settles everybody will where they're supposed to be, whether it's here or whether it's not, that will be decided at that time."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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