As you well know, Jared Allen has reached an unfamiliar point as he enters his 10th NFL season. He’s suddenly in a contract year, playing out the final season of the deal he signed in 2008 and due to make $14,280,612 in base salary this season with a cap number north of $17 million.
Given Allen’s age (31), his battles with shoulder and knee injuries in 2012 and the expensive price tag he’ll certainly command until his playing days are over, it’s very possible his time as a Viking could be nearing an end.
We’ll dive deeper into that possibility with a column that will run in Friday’s Star Tribune. So stay tuned for that. But in a candid one-on-one interview recently, Allen shared also his thoughts on a number of other topics including his contribution to the team’s courtship of Greg Jennings in free agency; what the Vikings’ 2012 wild card run means for 2013; and, yes, his confirmation that he was never approached about a possible contract restructuring.
Oh, and you also should know that when Allen went to get his haircut a few weeks back, he decided to go back to his trademarked mullet.
“I’m going to rock it, man. Let’s bring it back,” Allen said. “I figured why not end my contract the way I started it.”
Here’s more of what Allen shared in our interview last week with additional candid thoughts coming in Friday’s column.
On whether the Vikings came to him about restructuring his current contract over the offseason …
“You use the word restructure and that to me makes it feel like they’d want me to take a pay cut. And if anybody asked me to take a pay cut, I’d be through the first door out of there. So no. We haven’t talked one iota. It is what it is. And we’re going to go about our business and play good ball and try to win a Super Bowl. And like I said the business stuff? We take care of that in the offseason. I have people to do that. That’s why I don’t get into it. You’re not going to hear it from me. I won’t complain. I go about my business.”
On what he wanted to convey to Jennings during the team’s free agency dinner with him …
“When you compete against someone for many years, you develop a healthy respect. And I’ve gotten to know Greg a little bit off the field too. He’s a good human being. And that was my thing to him, that we need guys like him. We have a quality team. [Owner] Zygi [Wilf] brings in quality people. And I was telling him, ‘You would fit into this team.’ We have quality people in this locker room. And what Greg was going to bring to our team is that expectation of winning. Here’s a guy who has won a Super Bowl. And he knows that making it to the playoffs isn’t enough. And I’m going to tell it like it is and he knows that. I was like, ‘If you come here, you’re going to be the guy. You won’t be one of five. You’re going to be the guy. We’ve got to get you the ball.’ He and Adrian [Peterson] are going to work great together as far as if you’re going to put eight in the box, nine in the box, go ahead. We’ve got ways to attack that. The way Greg has toasted us over the years, I just wanted to get him on our side.”
On which Vikings helped his transition to the team when he came over via a trade with Kansas City in 2008 …
“I know when I came here to talk to Pat [Williams] and Kevin [Williams] it made a difference to me. Coaches put on a sales pitch a lot of times. Players can relate through other players, especially if you have a relationship. Greg knew I wasn’t going to b.s. him and I’d tell it like it is. Hopefully he respected that. Well, he signed. So ... I’m excited to have him. He gives us an ability at the receiver position, especially after losing Percy [Harvin], that he’ll fill an obvious void for us. … Sometimes you hear the sales pitch but you really just want to know what it’s like with a team. Especially because I’ve been successful in this organization and when a player comes here, especially when they’ve been successful somewhere else, they want to make sure they can continue their success. That’s the best way to put it. And that’s how I tried to relate to Greg. Again, talking to Kevin and Pat when I came in it was like, ‘OK I can work with these guys. This is the truth coming here.’ This is how it’s going to play out and you go forward.”
On his lasting feelings following last year’s 10-6 march into the NFC playoffs …
“I want to win a Super Bowl. And I feel like I’ve invested and put a lot of work into the Minnesota organization and becoming a leader and becoming a core guy and unifying with the vets like Adrian and [Chad] Greenway. And making the playoffs isn’t good enough. Not for us. We expect to make the playoffs and we want to go far in the playoffs. So I feel like last year I got cheated out of an opportunity from going deeper in the playoffs. We made a heck of a run and then we blew it in the first round. I’ve got that bad taste in my mouth and I want to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl.”
On whether he found encouragement in the Vikings’ surprising turnaround in 2012 after a dismal 3-13 campaign in 2011 …
“Yeah. But the thing with football is go back and look throughout the league. How often do teams repeat the exact same season they had? No one would have thought that 3-13 was going to go to 10-6, ya know. No one would have thought that the Giants were going to go from the Super Bowl champs to all of a sudden not in the playoffs. Or the Saints [and their 2012 decline]. So for me, each year stands on its own merits. You don’t know who’s going to get hurt. We play such a violent sport that injuries become a big part of the game. I guess that’s why I say I got cheated out of an opportunity [last season]. We were in the playoffs. And we got beat, bottom line. I say we were cheated because you won four games to get there and it kind of starts to build and there’s momentum and it’s like, ‘Hey, this is the kind of run that Super Bowl teams go on.’ So you start gearing up for a run in the playoffs and then bam! It’s over. So you have that dirty taste in your mouth.
“But I mean yeah, it’s encouraging to have the same players back now. If they put the same work ethic into this offseason as they did last and we come to training camp and we see the same type of growth, we can be pretty good. And we’ll see ourselves with a 100 percent Adrian all year who’s going to be even better. So yeah we have expectations. And our expectations are to win the division. Our expectations are to make it to the playoffs. Our expectations are to go deep into the playoffs. And our expectations are to hopefully get to the Super Bowl. But it’s hard to sit here and feel too good. You can look back and say, ‘Yeah great, we built some great things last year.’ But you also see we don’t have Antoine [Winfield] now. That’s a huge loss in our secondary the way he played. So someone has to fill that role. There’s a lot of that. It’s the NFL. So it’s tough to say what you can do and who you can be until you get into the season. Do we expect to win? Absolutely. Are we encouraged about rattling off four wins in a row to close the season to make into the playoffs? Absolutely. But that was last year. This year you never know what’s going to happen.”
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