Jared Allen has no concerns that retirement will be boring. With him, little is boring.
The former All-Pro defensive end announced his retirement from the NFL in February but signed a contract Thursday to return to the Minnesota Vikings for one day in order for him to retire as a Viking.
“I can now say I’m a Viking for the remainder of my time here on earth,” Allen said from his home in Arizona during a conference call with Vikings beat writers on Thursday.
Allen recalled his time with the Vikings fondly, saying he “grew up” in Minnesota after making mistakes in Kansas City, where management had concerns about signing him to a lucrative contract. The Vikings traded for Allen before the 2008 draft and he finished third on the Vikings’ all-time sacks list after only six seasons in Minnesota.
With a new coaching staff and a rebuilding project entering the Vikings’ scene in 2014, Allen entered free agency in 2014 and eventually signed with the Chicago Bears, who traded him to the Carolina Panthers during the 2015 season. That set up Allen’s “ultimate goal” – getting to the Super Bowl in February, where his Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos.
He said he and Vikings management had several discussions about the direction of the team in 2014, saying they were “probably the most honest conversations I’ve had in this business” and “there was no love lost” between him and Minnesota’s management.
Now, he’s back, if only for 24 hours, but he joked that he wanted a clause in his ceremonial contract for an advance on pay and wanted to be sure he didn’t have to attend training camp.
“Minnesota was my heart. Six great years of not only football, but I met my wife when I was there, got married when I was there, had my first child there. There are just so many memories there.”
Still, he plans to attend a Vikings game in the future as a fan and wants to see the new stadium.
His six seasons in Minnesota were full of memories, including his single-season, franchise-record 22 sacks in 2011.
“Obviously my 22nd sack was phenomenal. That was unfortunate that that was in a very, very down year for the team,” he said. “I think probably my greatest memory would be the entire 2009 season. … That 2009 season was something special. That was just fun. We won a couple games we had no business winning. That catch that Greg Lewis made in the back of the end zone against the Niners, I think that’s when I realized how magical Brett (Favre) could be. That was a pretty cool moment.”
Allen was also part of the trio of players that left training camp in 2010 to fly down to Mississippi to lure Brett Favre back to the team in 2010 before he retired for good following the failed 2010 campaign.
“We were all trying to do what we could do to try to win a championship. At that time, Brett gave us the best spot at the quarterback position to do that. Obviously, we had pretty much the same team coming back from 2009. We endured a lot of injuries that year. But it was a fun time and I got a couple days out of training camp so you can’t beat that.”
Their pitch to Favre wasn’t elaborate.
“We just drove around in a Jeep and a tractor groveling, ‘Please, Brett! Please!’” Allen joked.
Now, Allen’s time will be spent with his wife and kids and his continued work with his Homes For Wounded Warriors foundation.
His annual “Night Ops Golf Tournament” in Arizona will remains a fundraising staple of the organization, which continues to work on housing for injured military veterans. The foundation recently broke ground on a house in in Oregon, lined up a recipient in Texas, closed on land for a recipient in Chicago and just closed on land in North Carolina for another, Allen said.
“We’ve got four projects ready to go, so we’re going to be busy, busy, busy and raising money and all that good stuff,” he said. “… I think I’ll be busy enough.”