Those are all feelings that faded in 2012.
In Week 1, Allen says, he hurt his knee but was “too stubborn to get it checked out,” instead pressing through the discomfort for the next four months.
Even before that, the labrum tear in his shoulder began to worsen. Allen was no longer able to train the way he likes. In the weight room, he often couldn’t squat, unable to get his arm behind his head with the shoulder supporting the weight. Worse, the shoulder pain made nights miserable.
“I’d toss and turn all night, every night,” he said. “You get a couple hours of sleep and then you wake up. And it’s this throbbing, pulsating deep pain like somebody has an ice pick in your shoulder.”
In the last month or so, Allen’s normal sleep has returned, fueling his exuberance. Which is why he has such spirit about attacking his contract year.
“I kind of feel like I hold all the cards in that aspect,” Allen said. “And if it doesn’t work out with the Vikings, I’m not too worried that I won’t be able to find a job, ya know?”
For a beloved and hard-working star who has recorded 74 of his 117 career sacks as a Viking, Allen seems like the last player who’d need to worry about job security. But this is the NFL. And just two months ago, Allen was both stunned and deflated when cornerback Antoine Winfield, 35, was abruptly released.
“Especially with the way he played last year,” Allen said. “You’d have thought, heck if Antoine wants to stay around, he’s sticking around no matter what the cost is. But sometimes you forget what the business of football is.”
Five weeks later, fellow defensive lineman Kevin Williams, 32, had his contract restructured with more than $2.5 million lopped off his 2013 salary and the 2014 portion of his deal eliminated.
In March 2012, guard Steve Hutchinson had his six-year run as a Viking ended when his age (34), bulky contract and suddenly ordinary play convinced the team to release him.
And Allen also points to Matt Birk, whom the Vikings opted not to re-sign in 2008, ending an otherwise stellar 11-year union.
“There is a depressing side of this game,” Allen said. “Not everybody can finish it off like Ray Lewis, right?”
Very few players finish like Lewis did in February, showering in Super Bowl confetti. But it’s certainly an acceptable goal to chase. Which is why Allen has designs on making this season memorable.
He seems conflicted on how to assess his 2012, bristling at the idea that his season was ordinary. He still compiled 12 sacks and made his fifth Pro Bowl.
And, as always, Allen can quickly check off a list of sacks he should’ve had, the ones he says were in his arms. He mentions two on Andrew Luck plus a barely tardy hit on Alex Smith. There was also a sure strip sack Aaron Rodgers ducked out of and …
Well, Allen could keep going and going.
“In most players’ cases it’s the difference between five sacks and 10. Or eight and 12,” he said. “For the elite guys it’s the difference between 12, 13 or 14 and the upper teens and 20s. And that’s a big deal when you’re held to a higher standard.”