I was immensely disappointed while standing in the locker room after Sunday’s season-opening loss to the San Diego Chargers. But as I stood just outside of a media huddle surrounding DE Jared Allen’s locker, I saw and heard reason for encouragement and optimism.
Allen had a great game against San Diego, tallying 6 tackles to go along with half a sack and an INT. The Vikings were not able to pressure Chargers QB Philip Rivers enough, but it wasn’t because of Allen. Regardless, when the result goes against the Vikings, it’s Allen – a leader on the Vikings defense – who has to answer the critics.
On Sunday, he did a good job of that and provided outstanding leadership along the way. Flanked to the right of Allen’s locker in the visiting locker room at Qualcomm Stadium were Brian Robison, Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard; Fred Evans was in the area, too. I’d classify all four of them – even 4-year veteran Robison because he’s a first-year starter in 2011 – as young defensive linemen. And they were sitting at their lockers when Allen was meeting with reporters.
Allen, coming off a great performance in a game his team lost, answered questions with grace and never pointed a finger at anyone but himself or the team as a whole.
“We blew it, man…We just give them the end of the game. We give them 15 yards in penalties. That’s not acceptable.”
Allen didn’t give San Diego anything in penalties. But he lumped himself into the group of players who committed three, yes three, encroachment/offsides penalties in the game’s final series, which eventually gave San Diego a 1st down via penalty and allowed Rivers and Co. to line up in the victory formation and kneel on the ball, rather than have to bite, scratch and crawl their way for a game-winning 1st down into the teeth of the Vikings run defense.
It was a good learning opportunity for those young defensive linemen, who were playing without perennial Pro Bowler Kevin Williams. I could tell they were listening to Allen, or at least could hear Allen, as he answered the questions and took responsibility for the defense’s performance. If I were a young player on a team with great veteran leadership that was expecting to return to the playoffs, I wouldn’t want to be a part of the reason one of the veterans had to answser questions about making mental mistakes at the end of a big game.
I’ve said for the past three weeks that Allen had the best training camp of any Vikings player, and that he’s going to be a productive player for the defense this season. It’s great to see Allen’s productivity is transcending the football field and entering the locker room, where the Vikings have a host of young defensive linemen who need to continue developing.
If those young defensive linemen follow Allen’s lead, their development won’t take long.
Tags: Jared Allen
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