Allen earns tough-guy cred

Jared Allen was listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against Green Bay, but he earned toughness points for playing through a shoulder injury – and playing well. See what he and other Vikings had to say about his toughness and performance.

Week Two of the Jared Allen Watch began today at Winter Park, as Allen returned for the first practice since being what many viewed as a surprise starter Sunday against the Packers. Earlier last week, reports had surfaced that Allen's shoulder sprain was a Grade-3 sprain – the most painful and extensive of the three grades of AC joint injuries.

Allen, who didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and was limited in his availability at Friday's practice, was listed as doubtful on the team's injury report. He went through extensive rehabilitation work and, when the swelling subsided the day before the game, he felt confident he would be in the lineup Sunday.

The bigger test, however, was after the game. The Vikings won a critical game over the Green Bay Packers and, in the end, Allen's sack for a safety proved to be the margin of victory in a 28-27 game. That was all well and good, but the concern was that he could further damage the shoulder by coming back too soon.

As of Wednesday, it's a "so far, so good" situation. Allen is far from 100 percent, but the biggest concern – that the swelling that had made him a question mark for much of last week – didn't materialize.

"It is sore and stiff," Allen said of his ailing right shoulder. "But the swelling has stayed out of it for the most part on Monday and Tuesday. I'm just going to continue my treatment and hopefully it will progressively get better."

There was some debate as to whether the information being given out late in the week was accurate as to the extent of the injury. Brad Childress played the Competitive Advantage Card and said nothing. Allen said he thought it was Grade-3, but added as most athletes do "I'm not a doctor" and said he didn't know if a Grade-3 was the mildest or the most extreme of the three grades of strain. One of the reasons for that was that Allen wasn't making it obvious that his shoulder was in as much pain as it was.

The reason for that is simple. Allen is one of the true throwback players of the NFL. Anyone with a working knowledge of the NFL has heard the stories of players of yesteryear. Long before MRIs and CAT scans, players with shredded knees or concussions were told "it's only a bruise" and sent back out to play. Over the years, some of those stories have become legendary. Ronnie Lott was a cinch for the Hall of Fame pretty early in his career, but insisting on having a broken finger removed rather than miss the playoff run to a Super Bowl gave him tough-guy cred that you can't buy. Allen said he loves hearing those types of stories and feels he is a player in the modern era that shares the same "play through the pain" creed that marked the NFL of decades past.

When asked if there was a time last week when he thought he might not play against the Packers, Allen said he knew the final decision wasn't his, but that he wouldn't tell his coaches or teammates he couldn't play – earning Tough Guy 501 post-graduate credits.

"I always think I can go," Allen said. "If my leg was broken I would still figure I could go. With the swelling the way it was up until Saturday, that was the biggest thing. It was doubtful. It was one of those things, but I knew (head coach Brad Childress) and (trainer Eric Sugarman) would be put me in the right position."

Playing with injuries is a fickle business. Depending on what body part is damaged, the ability to play comes into question. Knees, ankles and hamstrings are body parts that are more likely to have a team shut a player down than shoulder or rib injuries. Every player has a different level of pain tolerance, but the silent code of the NFL says that, if you're capable of playing, you play through the pain.

Vikings center Matt Birk knows what Allen is going through. In 2004, Birk played as long as he could with a sports hernia injury that required surgery and he missed four games. Determined to return, Birk came back and helped lead the Vikings to their last playoff appearance that season. The following year, Birk was playing with hip and the sports hernia injuries during the preseason of 2005. He told the team that, if it would guarantee his 2006 salary, he would play as long as his body would allow him into the season. The team declined the offer and Birk had the surgery – missing the 2005 season.

Birk's willingness to play through the pain earned the respect of his teammates and cemented a place as one of the locker room leaders. Birk said that what he has come to know of Allen, there was no question in his mind that, if he could physically play, he not only would, but he would play at a high level. That's one of the man-laws of the Tough Guy Code.

"Most of the guys in here, if they can go, they'll go," Birk said. "It's expected. That's kind of the culture of the game and this team. That's how it is with most teams I've been on. You expect the leaders and the stars of your team – guys like Jared – to do that. Not only play, but play really well."

While he didn't downplay the severity of his injury, Allen said that playing with pain is just a part of life in the NFL, especially for those who make their living in the trenches. Just about every player in every NFL locker plays through aches and pains of some kind. Some are worse than others, but everyone has been dinged up in some way this far into the season.

"Everybody plays hurt," Allen said. "The only time you feel good is that first week of training camp before you go out to practice. To me it's just always been a character trait of me. I have a lot of respect for the old players. (Rams defensive end) Jack Youngblood played with a broken leg. If he can play with a broken, I can (play with an injured shoulder)."

With Wednesday's practice marking the start of Tampa Bay week for the Vikings, Allen was at practice and limited. Until the shoulder is healed, which may not be fully until the end of the season, Allen's practice time might be scaled back by design. He said he doesn't know what will be asked of him, but, if the training staff wants his input on how much he should practice this week, he is willing to give his two cents worth.

"That will be up to (Childress) and the trainers," Allen said with a smile. "If it was up to me, none."

  • S Madieu Williams was the only other Viking limited in practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury suffered in special teams work earlier in the day. He is day-to-day.

  • For the Bucs, S Jermaine Phillips (forearm) and TE Alex Smith (ankle) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. LB Derrick Brooks (knee), RB Earnest Graham (knee), QB Brian Griese (elbow) and DL Jimmy Wilkerson (illness) were limited.

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