Jared Allen holds court

Jared Allen is back at Winter Park this weekend and giving his normally interesting and sarcastic answers when asked about a variety of topics. There were even some serious moments when discussing the team, but plenty of laughs when talking about his haircut and Brett Favre.

One of the welcome sights on the Vikings practice field this weekend has been the return of Jared Allen. The walking quote machine was in fine form at minicamp as, per usual, he was one of the first players surrounded by the media following practice and, per usual, he didn't disappoint.

Allen held court, answering questions ranging from the loss of his trademark mullet to Brett Favre (ESPN's Ed Werder was there, so you knew those questions were coming). He was his usual self, which is a refreshing change from young players who too often answer questions with one- or two-word responses.

Allen said that the offseason program with the Vikings hasn't been as strongly attended as it has been other years and other places. But he said that isn't due to a lack of commitment. It was the combination of a deep playoff run and a core of grizzled veterans that know how to keep their bodies in shape and when to turn on the switch to kick their conditioning into high gear.

"It's nice," Allen said of the veteran core of players returning for minicamp. "I was talking with Kevin (Williams) today. We've got one of those teams that doesn't have a lot of open roster spots. It's good to get back and start working again. You can get a little more productivity – a little deeper into the install – this weekend and hopefully it will carry on into training camp."

Two players conspicuous by their absence were Favre and running back Adrian Peterson. With his typical flair, Allen deflected the question of whether he or his teammates were upset by their two offensive stars not being there for the weekend, playing the sarcasm card.

"I cry myself to sleep every night, I really do," Allen said with a smirk. "It's a tough thing. We've got a bunch of guys here and you work with who's here on the field."

Allen has grown a little weary of constantly being asked Favre-related questions and, when the inevitable question of whether he believed Favre would be back for another season and if that makes this year's minicamp different, he had a pretty straightforward response – the belief that the Vikings are a great team with Favre, but would still be a very good team without him.

"Hey, last year he wasn't even here (at minicamp)," Allen said. "It's one of those things. He's going to make his decision. That's between him and his family. They'll convey the message one way or the other. Whether he comes or doesn't come back, the games are going to be played and the Minnesota Vikings have to step on the field and win games. That's what we get paid to do – show up and win games."

When the reporters wouldn't let the Favre questioning go, Allen let it be known that the only responses he would give on the subject would be with tongue firmly in cheek.

"As you can see, we're all pretty distraught out here," Allen said. "It was hard to get through practice today and really don't know how we're going to get through this whole weekend without him here. I'm sure we'll survive."

Allen quickly changed gears, immediately following up his sarcasm by saying that the team has faith in Tarvaris Jackson and, if needed, Sage Rosenfels, to start should Favre decide he doesn't want to play a 20th season.

"Tarvaris was a starter for this team before and is a very capable quarterback," Allen said. "We worry about who's here, not so much who's not here. Everybody in this league is on a different program. The best line I ever heard from a coach was when he said, ‘I won't treat everybody the same, but I will treat everybody fairly.' Not everybody is on the same page. Take that for what it is."

No interview with the cleanly shorn Allen could be complete without the discussion of the shaving of his infamous mullet. Allen said he isn't sure if it will be coming back – perhaps it was a symbol of his bachelor days and now he's looking like a more mature married man. He did admit, it was difficult to see it go, but he said his wife wanted it that way, sounding like he's been married for a long time.

"I know it was very Samsonesque," Allen said. "But you know what? I played a lot of football without the hair before – high school, college, the start of my pro career. I think I'll reach back for those memories – watch some film, see if I can learn how to run. I wasn't so top-heavy today. It's like riding a bike. Sometimes you have to put the training wheels back on and re-learn a few things."

Allen said he needed some time to accept the loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game and that it lingered for a long time. For most of the Vikings players, it was their first taste of getting to a conference final and that how they lost was more difficult to bear than losing itself.

"This one was tougher because it was a game we felt we should have won," Allen said. "I've always said those close losses are so much harder than getting your butt kicked. You get your butt kicked and you can go back and watch film and say, ‘this is what we did wrong.' We know what the mistakes were – we turned the ball over five times. But you still had a chance to win. You feel like you played such a dominant game, so that one was harder to get over than the rest. It took a few weeks."

Allen said the disappointment and anger has been replaced by a resolve to get back there – "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" – and said that experience is going to be the motivation for he and his teammates to get back and make another run for the Super Bowl. He said he's feeling the building of momentum that will carry into training camp, the preseason, the regular season and, by all expectations, the postseason again.

"I haven't been this excited about football probably ever," Allen said. "I'm stoked out there."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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