Jared Allen hasn’t had a chance to show his great ability in rushing the passer in the Vikings’ first two exhibition games, with starters seeing little action against Houston and Buffalo.
But the star defensive end said that after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a torn meniscus in his left knee in the offseason, his health is the best it has been in years.
“I played well last year, but it was definitely a hindrance, but you know what, you have to fight through those things and still get the job done,” Allen said.
Last season the entire defensive line played in a rotation and even Allen, as great a player as he is, spent quite a bit of time on the bench.
“I played quite a bit last year,” he said. “I think I still had more than 1,000 snaps, so again, I just go out and do my thing. We’ll let that sort itself out.”
With cornerback Antoine Winfield gone, the Vikings secondary will be one of the least experienced in the league. Will that cost the team some victories?
“At this point you’re a professional,” Allen said. “You have to play, you’re here because you’re talented and you have to play up to that level. I think it’s important for these guys to understand that we don’t allow youth to be an excuse. They have been working hard, and that’s all we can really ask for.”
The Vikings were 10-6 last season and made the playoffs. Allen believes the Vikings can do as well or better this season.
“If we stay healthy and remain consistent, we have a shot,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for. We have a shot to win games. We have a shot to be good and we have a shot to go to the playoffs and do damage in the playoffs.”
Does Allen think the three defensive linemen who are free agents (Allen, Kevin Williams and Brian Robison) will be with the Vikings next year?
“That is not my decision and not my thing to worry about,” he said. “All I do is go out and play football, bud.”
Several Vikings players make great contributions to charity, and Allen is one of the leaders in that area.
“My foundation is doing well,” he said. “We’ve partnered with some good people like the PBR [Professional Bull Riders] and we have some good things coming up in 2014. Just trying to do my due diligence to give back. The military has always been a special part of my life and my family. So that’s why we build and remodel homes and make them handicap-accessible for our wounded vets.”
McHale moves pay off
The signing of center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year, $60 million Timberwolves contract is a reminder that Kevin McHale’s legacy as the team’s general manager is still playing out.
In January 2006, McHale sent Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, Dwayne Jones and a future first-round draft pick to Boston for Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and Mark Blount along with Boston’s 2006 second-round draft pick and the Miami Heat’s 2008 second-round pick, which Boston had acquired in an earlier trade.
In 2008 McHale used that second-round pick from Boston, via Miami, to select Pekovic 31st overall. The Star Tribune reported on that draft night that McHale and the Wolves received offers of cash or protected future first-round picks as teams tried to get the obtain that selection. Everyone knew Pekovic was a lottery-type talent but he had contract issues in Europe that were going to be tough to resolve. He lasted until the second round to avoid the rookie contract scale.
But McHale knew he had something special in Pekovic, and anyway, he had already made a franchise-altering trade earlier in the draft.
McHale waited until late in the night to make the key decision to send the Wolves’ third overall draft pick, O.J. Mayo, to the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 5 pick, Kevin Love, as part of an eight-player swap. It’s funny to remember now that the only reason the Love trade happened was because Memphis was willing to add future NBA champ Mike Miller to the deal. Without him the Wolves would have kept Mayo, and their frontcourt of the future never would have happened.
• How does Vikings special team coach Mike Priefer see former quarterback turned wide receiver Joe Webb fitting in with those teams? “Joe has been working extremely hard and it’s all brand new to him, and obviously he has not done this before, especially at an NFL level. He is doing a great job in terms of learning. He sits up in front in meetings and asks questions and is doing drill work well.”
• Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is impressed with how tough free-agent fullback Zach Line plays the game. “He’s not afraid of contact, I can tell you that,” Spielman said. “If you look at his face and see all those scars above the bridge of his nose, that shows you he does put his head in there and try to get after people.”
• Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson, who got his first action as a freshman last year in the Wisconsin game on Oct. 20, was asked how things are different for him after starting the final seven games of the season. “Last year was really just getting my feet wet a little bit and being able to figure out what it’s like,” Nelson said. “But I think our whole offense getting a year of experience and me getting a half of a season under my belt and spring ball and summer has prepared us. I think we’re ready to hit camp hard and hit the ground running and do what we have to do.”
• Asked about the expected Twins attendance this year, club President Dave St. Peter said: “I’m hoping for 2.5 [million], I think at a minimum we’ll draw 2.4. To be honest with you, I don’t take that for granted. I think our fans have been great. When you look at major league attendance and you start to stack up wins and losses, I don’t think there’s a better fan base in the game. Our fans have been patient, they have been in the ballpark in big numbers. Our no-show rate, we remain among the best in Major League Baseball. That tells you that, despite the fact that we haven’t played well, our season-ticket holders are still coming to games and having good experiences.”
• TwinsFest will shift to Target Field next year on Jan.24-26 after the Metrodome is torn down. Vendors of memorabilia who had six tables and earned as much as $30,000 each year will be limited to one table and a lot less profit.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com