Linemates Love Allen Already

The Vikings didn't have a first-round pick to show off at their draft party, but fans and teammates alike were extremely impressed and excited by the arrival of defensive end Jared Allen. His new starting teammates on the defensive line are already joking heavily with the newest (and very popular) addition, and the accolades and jabs were fast and furious.

For a team that was conducting a draft party without the benefit of a first-round pick, the Vikings' event was filled to capacity, selling out all 3,000 tickets and filling the Winter Park fieldhouse with rabid fans looking forward to the 2008 season.

While the Vikings would never be on the clock during the draft party itself, that didn't matter to the fans in attendance. For them, it was going to be their first chance to meet new Viking Jared Allen and they weren't disappointed.

When Allen appeared in front of the crowd a little after 2:30 p.m. Central Time, the crowd went insane with cheers and applause. In his first interview in front of Vikings fans, he was able to work the crowd like a pro.

When asked about his former team taking defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey with its first pick, Allen said, "I don't care. I'm a Viking now. I hope he's a bust."

On a follow-up question, he was asked about the Vikings heading to Lambeau Field for the season opener and he was just as candid, saying of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, "You have to let those rookie types know you're there. By the time we're done, he's going to have his jaw wired shut."

Both responses drew thunderous ovations from the fans and set the tone for the afternoon – which was centered around Allen. Those entering the fieldhouse were welcomed by a huge banner of Allen celebrating a sack with a photo-shopped Vikings jersey on – which proved to be a portent of things to come.

Once inside the fieldhouse, it was hard to miss the Allen jerseys throughout the crowd. Despite only being a Viking for a few days, Allen's impact was already being felt with fans draped in purple No. 69 jerseys. But it almost didn't happen due to a timing issue at the Mall of America.

The Minnesota Vikings Locker Room store had Allen jerseys on hand, but they were flying off the shelves and, as the draft party was nearing its conclusion, they continued to be a top-seller.

"Our manager missed the UPS delivery this morning and we had to call them and plead with them to come back and bring them," said Michael Zellmer, manager of the Locker Room store at Ridgedale Mall. "We explained we had a huge event going on and couldn't show up empty-handed. UPS helped us out and we were able to get them and run them out in time for the opening of the draft party. We came out with 96 jerseys and we're down to about 20 already (about halfway through the party)."

Fans were proud to be wearing the new No. 69, although one Brock Lesnar No. 69 jersey was spotted in the crowd. The fans came to see Allen and show their support, up to and including putting his number on their backs.

"I had to have one," said fan Denny Theisen of St. Paul. "It cost $85, but it was worth it. I had to spend $10 more because I needed a 2-X size. I guess they needed more material for us big guys, so they charged more."

The expressions of man-love for Allen wasn't limited to the fans. His new teammates showed their admiration as the front four of Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards were introduced as a group to the fans. Allen, decked out in a white cowboy hat, said he was going to get a similar outfit for Big Pat – including a hat, a big belt buckle and a pair of tight jeans. Perhaps not everyone wants to see that, but they do want to see how this new defensive front is going to look on game days. That includes the Vikings themselves.

"The sky is the limit for us," Kevin Williams said. "(Allen) has a relentless motor. He's led the league in sacks, so you know he can bring it. We can't wait to get this thing going."

The tone of the voices of the Vikings defensive line expressed their excitement. For a guy like Pat Williams, who was consistently double-teamed last year, the chance to get pressure on the quarterback without having to call all-out blitzes is something he's looking forward to.

"He's going to make a huge difference," Williams said of Allen. "Last year if we wanted to get pressure (on the quarterback), we were bringing cornerbacks, safeties, linebackers, everybody. Now those guys can stay back and play their spots and know that we'll be able to get to the quarterback without bringing them all the time."

The question opposing teams will have to ask is who do they double-team? One thing is clear. Things are going to look a lot different than they were last year.

"Teams are going to have to pick their poison," Kevin Williams said. "Last year, Pat and I got a lot of double-teams. If people are going to keep trying that this year, they're going to pay for it. We've got a lot of pieces in place. Now it's just a matter of putting them in play."

The reaction of his teammates was music to Allen's ears – both from the fans and his new teammates. After having an acrimonious relationship with the Chiefs organization that led to his being traded, enjoying such an about-face with his new team and the reaction of the fans had Allen pumped up like a little kid.

"This has been beyond great," Allen said. "Coming here just started out as an idea. I was looking to make the rounds – I hadn't signed my tender for the franchise tag. Obviously, I wanted out (of Kansas City). As it progressed, it became more and more realistic that I would come here. Next thing you know, I'm here and we're working on a contract. It was almost like it wasn't real."

The kinship the new teammates on the D-line have developed was obvious. While Allen was talking to the media, all three of teammates messed with him. Kevin Williams stared over his shoulder. Pat Williams tried on his hat. Edwards interrupted a question-and-answer session to announce Allen is the second-ugliest member of the defensive line. The ugliest? "Pat," Edwards said with a laugh. "But don't tell him I said that."

The friendship the players have formed in such a quick period of time is a bit surprising, but, according to the players, Allen has assimilated with his new teammates extremely well.

"He's only been here a few days, but it's like he's been here his whole career," Pat Williams said. "He fits in with everyone really well. He's a great guy and he's going to step right in like he's always played here."

It would seem the only thing left is to get a nickname for the new front four. Purple People Eaters has already been taken. But there will be a nickname coming.

"We're going to get together and come up with something," Kevin Williams said. "You can bet that by the time we start training camp, we'll have one."

For not having a first-round pick for the first time since the final year of paying off the Herschel Walker trade, the excitement at the draft party is getting contagious. With fun like this, who needs a first-round pick?


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