"I feel a lot more confident with that playbook," Allison said after a recent practice. "In the offseason, I feel like a lot of the guys – coaches and some of the veteran players – they emphasized details. This game here in the NFL is so competitive (that) you have to be really focused on the details. They've been doing a good job getting me prepared with that. By me going over those plays and knowing them, I feel a lot more comfortable and I can go full speed."
It has showed in recent weeks, as the second-year receiver has been spotted catching a number of deep passes and showing the catching consistency of a veteran.
Allison entered the NFL expecting to be a second- or third-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Instead, for unknown reasons, his stock went from being a first-day pick in mock drafts to a fifth-round selection in the real draft. Despite the disappointment last offseason, Allison said he was able to use his rookie season to learn a few things about bettering himself as a player.
"Definitely taking care of my body is first. Putting in that work, I felt like my rookie practice time is going to pay off big-time. By me having a season under my belt, it gave me a sense of how I need to prepare for this season coming up," he said.
"I get as much rest as possible, use the facility to its advantage, trying to be the last guy here and get my body in as good of shape as possible. It's a wear-and-tear season. It's long. It's a marathon, so I have to get prepared."
Allison was inactive for five games last season, mostly due to game-day roster limits. However, he gradually became the Vikings' go-to guy for kickoff returns. He seemed to cement that role when Troy Williamson took two games away to tend to his grandmother's funeral. With Williamson no longer on the team this year, Allison is back competing with a number of other players to become the primary kick returner.
As a rookie, he had three returns of 60 yards or more. But, despite Allison leading the NFC and setting a Vikings record by averaging 28.7 yards on 20 kickoff returns, including a 104-yard return that earned him the NFL Special Team Player of the Week in Week 13, the Vikings signed Maurice Hicks in free agency. It is a move that could leave Allison no longer the frontrunner for the return job.
"I really didn't pay no attention because although he was signed I still feel like it's up in the air because it's going to show – by this being a competitive business, that's just part of the business," Allison said. "You've got to go with the flow. He's going to get his opportunities and hopefully I'll get my opportunities and we can just both help the team as best we can."
All of Allison's accomplishments as a kick returner in 2007 came as a bit of a surprise given that he didn't return kickoffs at East Carolina. He returned only 10 punts in college, too, but he is also among the candidates to do that for the Vikings, who have no clear frontrunner for that job this offseason after the free-agent departure of Mewelde Moore.
As a receiver, Allison had only eight receptions for 122 yards in 2007, but his improvement in offseason work has really shown in the last six weeks. He has looked the part as a sure-handed receiver and has become an occasional deep target for the Vikings' quarterbacks.
This year, he hopes the lessons he learned as a rookie will help him garner more playing time and help him sustain throughout a grueling NFL season.
"I didn't feel I wore down (last year), I just feel I wasn't as strong as I could have been," he said. "Going into the season, I didn't really know what to prepare for. By that being under my belt, by going through those games and that season last year, I can look toward those games (in 2008) and know how I want my body to be prior to coming into the season."
So far, so good for Allison's ramp-up to the training camp.