Vikings defensive end Jared Allen made it very clear during the preseason that he didn’t have it in him mentally to endure a rebuilding season. Even as outsiders saw the Vikings’ youth movement and figured logically that they were at least a season away from maturing and contending for a playoff berth, Allen had no plans on waiting around.
So his August message to a team with so many new faces and so many young players was straightforward.
“I wouldn’t say your patience runs out,” Allen said then. “But at some point, the learning curve has to pick up and they need to catch up to where we’re at. Because it’s not our job [as veterans] to drop down because you’re young. I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as a young player. You’re in the NFL and you’re getting paid to do your job. And our job is up here at a high level. That’s where we need to be and everybody needs to get there.”
On Sunday night, after the Vikings defeated Green Bay 37-34 to reach the postseason, Allen reflected back on that sentiment, fulfilled that so many of his young teammates granted his wish.
“That’s just my mindset,” Allen said. “I don’t got time. I don’t have a five-year plan. You know what I mean? I’m here to win now. And that’s what I love about this organization. So are they.”
Allen has been open in his praise of this team’s drive and focus. And while he thinks the veterans and coaching staff do their best to set a good example, he also credits the Vikings’ young players for bringing their own ambition and concentration to the forefront every day.
“If you don’t have that inside of you, it doesn’t matter what a coach says, it doesn’t matter what a teammate says,” Allen said. “Everybody on this team has good character. These guys in this locker room genuinely like football. They don’t like what football gives them. They’re here to win games and they are here to play hard. You see that raw emotion in guys. And that’s what makes it fun. I’ve played with a lot of talented people that didn’t have that drive. You see it all the time. But our guys in here have that drive. They want to be good. And that’s what makes it easy for guys to work hard. That’s what makes it easy as a veteran to say, ‘Hey we need to do this.’ And guys will respond.”
Allen believes the Vikings have seen the rewards for when they invest from a work ethic standpoint and then go out and play sound fundamental football. He also admitted he had “no clue” how good or bad this team might be when training camp broke in August.
“It was kind of cool that there were no expectations to live up to,” Allen said. “So you were going to be what you were going to be. Whatever product we put on the field, that’s what we were going to be. And as we grew, I think guys kind of noticed like ‘Ah, we’ve got something here.’ That chemistry.
“As vets, you sit back with a lot of young kids and watch from afar at first. But then these young cats kind of pull you in and the next thing you know you’re barking in the tunnel. They’ve got me singing songs I’ve never even heard of. … It’s guys believing in their craft and believing that we have a chance to do it. Nobody gave up in here. And look where we’re at.”