As the television cameras engulfed Jared Allen and a pack of reporters scurried toward his locker stall Wednesday, the Vikings defensive end cracked his neck, smiled and turned on the charm.
Mired in the frustration of his team's 0-4 start, Allen wasn't about to go all Eeyore with his outlook. Instead, he was charismatic and jovial, unwilling to show his frustrations.
"Last year was a tough year," Allen said. "There was a lot of negativity around here. And at times I found myself right in the heap of it. So I'm trying to be more focused on the positives this year. I'm trying to have a little more fun."
Besides, Allen reasoned, at least this fall's struggles haven't stirred a national inquisition the way last season's soap operas often did.
"We only have to deal with the local guys now every day," Allen said. "We don't have the national media calling us losers, which is cool. I don't know. It's just a different feel. Honestly, I don't know how to explain it."
A month's worth of losing can create a contagious aggravation in most NFL locker rooms. But strangely, many of these Vikings say they still feel upbeat, believing they have answers to turn things around.
Seems odd, but that's the feeling.
And in what has been an odd season in many ways, there may be little stranger than the Vikings' zero sum turnover margin.
Not only has the team committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL through four games -- two Donovan McNabb interceptions and a desperation lateral fumble by Percy Harvin on the final play of Week 2 -- but the Vikings also have the fourth-fewest takeaways.
The last turnover the Vikings defense forced came 10 quarters ago against Tampa Bay, an interception by safety Husain Abdullah.
Since then? Nothing.
That trend, linebacker Chad Greenway understands, has to change.
"We need to make it a greater priority to strip the ball out," Greenway said. "When you get in there as a second hitter, you need go in there really trying to rip at that ball instead of just making the tackle. And when we get tipped balls, it's simple. We need to catch those."
Asked Thursday what the Vikings needed to do better to create more game-changing plays, defensive coordinator Fred Pagac nodded with a sense of irritation. Pagac pointed back to his unit's first series Sunday in Kansas City, where on a third-and-13 play from the Vikings 46, defensive end Everson Griffen came off the edge to sack Matt Cassel for a 7-yard loss.
Except that Griffen negated his big play by committing a facemask penalty.
Eight plays later, Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield had his hands on an iffy Cassel pass to Steve Breaston. A pick there could have also ended the drive. Instead, Winfield dropped the ball and the Chiefs scratched a 40-yard Ryan Succop field goal out of the series.
"We just have to make plays when we have opportunities and go from there," Pagac said.
Opportunities should surface Sunday. Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb has already thrown four interceptions this season. And the Cardinals have also fumbled 10 times, losing three.
The Vikings defense knows it hasn't delivered nearly enough. The team has gone four games now without scoring a single point off turnovers.
"You look at that Kansas City game and we had our hands on three or four balls, especially down the stretch," defensive end Brian Robison said. "Those are plays we have to make. There were also a lot of times we got to the quarterback. But he got rid of the ball a second too fast. We have to look inside ourselves and figure out a way to get there a step quicker."
Allen plans to do his part. His 61/2 sacks rank second in the NFL. Now he hopes to add a strip sack to the equation. The Pro Bowl end also has vowed to keep his team's energy level up.
"Even though we're 0-4, it seems we're having a little more fun around here," he said. "At least personally I am. So we just have to try and push through."