We have an indisputable fact here at Daily Norseman: Jared Allen is awesome. This fact is never more evident than when you're talking with him in person. That's just what we got to do on Wednesday afternoon after the Vikings' third padded practice of the season concluded.
Surrounded by a throng of reporters, Allen quickly quashed any ideas of a rivalry between himself and rookie left tackle Matt Kalil. "You guys are really trying to hype up this Kalil thing. I don't play him this season and he doesn't play me. We're going to continue to improve as each day goes, but it's just a healthy competition trying to work together."
This isn't the first time that Allen has practiced against a big name tackle in his career. "In Kansas City I went against [Hall of Fame tackle] Willie Roaf...I would work hard against Willie but my goal wasn't to beat Willie Roaf. My goal was to get as much knowledge as I possibly could from him so I picked his brain about everything. If I focus on 'my goal is to beat Matt Kalil today', I'm focusing on the wrong task at hand."
Both Alan Williams and Leslie Frazier have talked about rotating in more defensive lineman this year, but if it's happening that's news to Jared. "They're probably going to drop that on me towards the beginning of the season and I'll get really pissed at them. I'm willing to do anything to win, but I don't like coming off the field," Allen said. "My theory has always been, you want to rest me, rest me during the week...I work my butt off to be able to make sure I can play."
"I don't ever pay attention to the amount of snaps," Allen continued. "When we're trying to win a football game, in my opinion you put your best players on the field...if I ever feel the snaps are too much, I'll retire. Until then, I'm going to try to play until the wheels fall off. That's my mentality. Don't take me off the field because I've prepared. In the offseason, through training camp, and through the regular work week to play every snap on Sunday." He went on to describe his strict workout that consists of lots of MMA and mountain biking along with his diet that help him prepare.
Allen realizes that the team lost a couple key players on defense and other guys need to fill the void. "We all need to be more consistent. There was a void when Pat Williams left. Our nose tackle is a huge part of our defense. So Letroy [Guion] and Fred [Evans], they gotta step up and make plays. To watch Letroy grow into a player where he's starting to get the physical and mental part of the game, because physically the dude is absolutely just a manchild. Fred has had a great camp too."
The Vikings will also miss longtime middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. "We're gonna miss E.J.," Allen explained. "In my mind he was irreplaceable just from his leadership standpoint. But we know what Jasper [Brinkley] is gonna do so it's not like there's a guy in there that we don't know. I'm excited about it. I think we'll improve."
Allen was asked about the change of his "persona" and how he's grown as a man. Out are the mullets and Sax Machine shirts; in are the clean haircuts, marriage, and 9 month old. But of course, he's still Jared Allen. "First of all, Sax Machine is hilarious. C'mon, it's a play on Kenny G. I don't have a persona, I am who I am." Allen thinks it's more about just having control of his life. "That's what I tell the guys: when you have your personal life in order, it just makes your on the field life so much easier because you can concentrate on work. I'm just trying to grow as a man, grow as a father, grow as a husband, grow in my faith."
While Jared has grown as a person, he still knows his roots--pun intended. "Let's face it, mullets are awesome. If I could grow one again without my hair falling out--I'm balding rapidly, so I'd have a skullet now. A cul-de-sac look, that'd be cool."
The hairline of the All-Pro defensive end might be changing, but his goals don't. "My personal goals never change. I'm always after the sack record. I've been after the sack record since I got in the league," Allen explained. "But it's within the scheme of things. The ultimate goal is winning games. Football's such a team sport that even individual awards were predicated on your team. Yeah, I want the sack record, but I'd much rather make the playoffs, I'd much rather win the [NFC] North. If you have three or four sacks and you come off a loss, you're like, ahh [slumps shoulders]. But if you only have one in a win, that's great. Every year I go out there and try to dominate because you never know when your last year is going to be."
Here's one thing we do know: Jared Allen is still awesome and still a great interview.