Defensive end Jared Allen was without question the Vikings' biggest acquisition of the free-agent season one year ago, even though he came to the team via trade. The Wilf ownership group agreed to a six-year contract worth potentially more than $73 million.
So was Allen worth the price? Just ask defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who spent one year with the Vikings before he had the benefit of Allen during the 2008 season.
"Without question. Impact guy, both on and off the field, a great acquisition for the Minnesota Vikings defense and for our team. It was more than just his production – his demeanor, the way he practices, the way he approaches games, it was good for our football team. Great signing by the Vikings," Frazier said last month at the Senior Bowl.
Allen performed well on the field, garnering 14 ½ sacks on his way to another Pro Bowl season. The Vikings could study film of Allen before making the trade to see his affect on the field. In the locker room, however, they weren't completely sure what they would be getting. Turns out, Allen was every bit as helpful there as he was on the field.
"We had done our homework and talked to people, but still you just don't quite know how a guy is going to handle the rigors of the season if he has a bad game or he has a great game. Does he all of the sudden begin to beat his chest? If he has a bad game, will he be around sulking or whatever? You don't know that," Frazier said. "Jared exceeded all expectations. I never would have imagined that he would be the type of selfless player that he became and was. Whatever was best for us, that's what he was going to do. You don't always get that out of your star players. Sometimes it's more about them or more about him. That wasn't the case with Jared, so he was great for our football team."
Allen showed his selflessness and toughness when he played through two injuries during the season that likely would have knocked most players out of action for at least one week. Instead, Allen played through a painful shoulder injury and sprained knee at different parts of the season.
"It affected him," Frazier said. "There were games he could barely raise his arm above his head, so it was difficult for him. But (it) was another side of him. He just played through it and kept playing, but there were definitely games when you questioned whether or not he should be out there, but he just played through things and it made a difference. He wasn't just out there holding on. He was an impact guy, even when he was banged up.
"When we got ready for Arizona out in Arizona, we had big questions about whether or not he was going to play, whether or not we should let him play or whether or not he would even want to play. He goes through pregame – myself, our doctors were working him out. We're looking and saying, ‘Maybe, but maybe not.' We ask him, ‘How are you feeling?' (Allen says), ‘Coach, I'm ready to go.' That's Jared. We talk about it, he's feeling great, OK, let him, and if we have a problem we put him out early. He finished the game, had a great game and of course we played well as a team. I look back at it and I go, this guy's incredible – superstar player, know he's banged up and may not play up to his standards, but he knew the importance of the game and his role for us and what we were trying to get accomplished. He said, ‘I want to play. I want to give it a shot.' He did and had a great game. It's an example of his character and the type of player he is. He's a guy that doesn't want to miss any games and he's going to play at a high level."
That Arizona game may have shown the team that they can play with some of the best teams in the league, especially after the Cardinals nearly won Super Bowl XLIII even after the Vikings beat them late in the regular season.
Allen's performance in that game may have shown other players that they can play well even with some pain. Frazier, a former cornerback whose playing career eventually ended because of a knee injury during the Chicago Bears' 1985 Super Bowl win, said a persistent attitude from a star player can rub off on teammates.
"Just being a player, in my own mind, when your superstar players, whether it be a Walter Payton or Mike Singletary, fights through pain, it kind of does something to other guys," Frazier said. "When they see that, they say, ‘Man, I've got to play with this banged-up ankle or my finger that's bothering me.' If I see Walter Payton do it or Jared Allen do it or Kevin Williams, you start to fight through some things that you might not otherwise."
Frazier: Allen's Toughness Showed Through
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