Allen Excited and Convincing

The Vikings introduced new defensive end Jared Allen to the media on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, the organization and Allen spent time talking about his past before addressing the possibilities of his future.

Jared Allen's second spoken sentence to the Minnesota media was that he felt he was 22 years old again. The Vikings are glad he isn't.

Four years ago, Allen was a fourth-round draft pick who held some promise as a defensive end and long snapper. He was also just getting started on his troubles.

After two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol – the last being on Sept. 26, 2006 – Allen served a two-game, league-imposed suspension to start the 2007 season. And he's spent countless days since then trying to convince others that he is changed.

On Wednesday, he and others who know him had done enough convincing to make him one of the NFL's richest players, as the Vikings acquired Allen in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs and signed him to a six-year, $74 million contract with just over $31 million in guaranteed money.

"He's a guy that readily acknowledges his past," said his new head coach, Brad Childress. "I think he is ready to have a positive influence on this team and on this organization, both on and off the field. You all know how I feel about that. I think we took what we thought was a thorough process through this decision-making process. I had extensive conversations with people that raised Jared, with people that played with Jared and with people that coached with Jared."

Allen never showed frustration at answering questions about his past, a history that put a firm rift between him and the management of the Kansas City Chiefs. He knows he made mistakes and said he had to eliminate the common denominator that caused his troubles – alcohol.

"I've never run from my mistakes. I've owned up to them. I've made the changes necessary to be a better man, and that's what I explained to them," Allen said. "Obviously, we went into greater detail about it. My biggest thing is, you don't have to hear me tell you how I've changed, you can come and see me live. People in the community and you guys will get to know me and see, wow, this is how he lives and this is his life. The important thing for me to express to him was these changes were not made just so I would look good in the eyes of the NFL. These changes were made for me as a man and to be a better man for my family, to represent the name on the back of this jersey. Like I told Coach, now that I am a part of this family, and as I told Mr. Wilf, now that I am a part of his family and a part of the Vikings family, I will do everything to represent that family as if I am representing my personal family."

One of the people the Vikings leaned on to learn more about Allen's transformation was former Viking and Chief Tony Richardson. During Allen's first two years in the league, Richardson, widely respected as a mature locker room presence, was a veteran fullback for the Chiefs. He witnessed first-hand the old Allen.

In February, on a flight from Phoenix to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and during their stay in Hawaii, Richardson experienced the new Allen.

"They got a chance to visit (on the plane) and they got a chance to visit a bunch by the pool out in Hawaii," Childress said. "(Richardson) said it was palpable. You could feel Jared Allen and where he is at right now and how his life has changed from when he first came into this league to who he is right now, not only as a player but obviously as a person."

Allen understands the large investment the Vikings made in him, but he said it isn't a risky investment. He is convinced his issues with alcohol are in the past.

"Obviously they had some questions they had to ask and I answered them truthfully and humbly and we moved on past that to what was going to be best for this organization and best for winning championships," Allen said.

CHAMPIONSHIP CONVINCED

While Allen spent much of his afternoon talking with various media and trying to convince them that alcohol wouldn't adversely affect his football career again, he also talked about how he became convinced that the Vikings were a team on the verge of greatness –now rather than later.

"That's what was so attractive about it. It wasn't like we're on the brink and we'll get a couple of players here and there and maybe next year. No, it's now. We want to win championships now and that attitude to me is so attractive," Allen said.

With the league's No. 1 rushing offense and No. 1 rushing defense, two factors are considered the most important in taking that step from an 8-8 record that says the Vikings are average to turning them into an elite team – improving the offensive passing game and improving the rush on the quarterback from the defensive line.

With a league-leading 15½ sacks in 2007, Allen is an integral part of getting more sacks from defensive linemen. But even though the former fourth-round pick reached the statistical pinnacle in the NFL, he doesn't appear to be satisfied.

"I think as a player if you ever think you have arrived, you might as well just hang it up. You might as well just walk off and turn in your retirement papers and call it a day because in this league, as you know, you have never arrived," Allen said.

It was the same way for him four years ago. He had reached a goal to get drafted into the NFL … and then realized he needed to adjust his goals.

"The day I got drafted, my dad called me because I told my old man when I was 8 years old that I was going to play pro football, and the day I got drafted he called me to say congratulations, you did it – you accomplished a life dream," Allen said. "That was a scary moment for me because now I've got to come up with new goals. So this is kind of the same thing."

Childress said Allen is not just one of the best pass rushers in the league, he is also good at stopping the run. Allen, who is nearly as good at entertaining and engaging people as he is at getting sacks, joked that Pat Williams said he had to leave the running backs for Williams to tackle.

Allen also found humor in his contract numbers. His bonus money was $31,000,069 – with the extra $69 dollars to represent his jersey number.

"It's hilarious. It's cool. We were laughing and joking about it," Allen said. "Actually my girlfriend kind of brought it up and she said it would be kind of funny. I think her word was cute; I say funny. If I said cute I might get looked at differently up here."

Actually, he will be looked at differently in Minnesota. He should be one of the most productive defensive ends in franchise history. He also will be one of the most entertaining. And probably one of the most scrutinized.

NOTES

  • Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski both said the team had no hesitations about signing Allen after it did all of its homework on his past and interviewed many people about his current state of maturity. Brzezinski said Allen plans to be very involved in the community.

  • Childress said owner Zygi Wilf was involved in the process from the start, saying it shows Wilf is intent on building this team "passionately" and "relentlessly." Spielman said Wilf wasn't pushing the team to sign Allen, just staying involved in the process.

  • Asked if he is in the prime of his career or just getting started, Allen indicated the latter. He said he thought he had his best year in 2006, when he had 7½ sacks and led the league in pressures, but he reviewed the film and found that he needed to do a better job of finishing plays.

  • Another relevant Allen quote: "The easy part is getting to be up top. The hardest part is staying there. As a player and as a human being I love that challenge. I love the fact that once you get up top, that's when the real fight starts."

  • The Vikings will move Ray Edwards to the left side of the defensive line, but Childress said there could be a little bit of "Where's Waldo" with moving Allen around as well.

  • With the Vikings giving up their first-round draft choice to acquire Allen, he will be among the current Vikings the team introduces at its annual draft party from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Also scheduled to make appearances are Bernard Berrian, Edwards, Ben Leber, Sidney Rice, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Aundrae Allison, Michael Boulware, Ryan Cook, Cullen Loeffler and Chris Kluwe.

    Several alumni – Matt Blair, Greg Coleman, Chuck Foreman, Bob Lurtsema, Jim Marshall, Randall McDaniel and Stu Voigt – are also scheduled to appear.


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