It’s a Monday in May and Jared Allen is reciting from the Book of Herm. ¶ “You always have to ask, ‘Do you love football or do you love what football gives you?’ ” ¶ The adage is borrowed from Herm Edwards, Allen’s head coach during his final two seasons in Kansas City. But this is the question the Vikings’ Pro Bowl defensive end is reminding himself to consider more as his career heads for an uncertain finishing stretch.
All in all, Allen feels terrific. He’s re-energized. He’s dedicated. He’s eyeing a dominant 2013 and believes he has three or four more good seasons left.
But there is also an intriguing subplot lurking.
In April, Allen turned 31. Two months earlier, he had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus problem in his right knee.
And, oh yeah, he has entered the final year in his six-year contract.
So with all factors considered, could this really be Jared Allen’s last season as a Minnesota Viking? A farewell tour?
To be clear, that’s not Allen’s desire. But it could be his reality. Which is why he refuses to spend much time thinking about life beyond January.
“I pray about it,” Allen said.
“I talk to my wife. And we’ll end up going where the good Lord takes us. But I don’t know where that path is headed.”
Ask Allen where he envisions himself a year from now and he’s only being honest declaring he has “absolutely no idea.” Prod him for his best-case scenario and he darts around that question as if it were a heavy-footed left tackle.
“Best-case scenario would have been that we would have never gotten to this point,” Allen said. “Best-case scenario would have been the organization would have gotten something done [on an extension] a few years back.
“Well ya know what? That’s not the case. And I understand it. … I’m just happy I’m in a spot where both sides are honoring the contract.”
That contract will pay Allen more than $14.2 million this season. But that also presents the awkward Catch-22. If Allen performs up to that level, the Vikings might have trouble affording the cost to re-sign him.
And if he delivers a subpar season by his standards, the team will have added incentive to find a younger, cheaper replacement.
Allen knows he won’t have full say in where his career finishes. But he does have control over the production he delivers this fall. Which is why he feels a renewed determination to get into the best shape possible.
Shouldering the load
Now in the final stages of his shoulder rehabilitation, Allen feels strong again. Leaner. More refreshed.