The performance of young players on the roster has been a vital part of the Vikings success in 2012. Rookies Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh have been outstanding performers week-in and week-out. Everson Griffen registered a career-high 8.0 sacks this season. Kyle Rudolph was 2nd among all NFL TEs with 9 TDs. Christian Ponder played his best game in the season’s biggest moment.
But now, with a postseason matchup against Green Bay just two days away, a few Vikings veterans are stepping up to the plate to provide leadership and perspective to the entire team.
Jared Allen, who had a sack of Aaron Rodgers in last week’s win and has registered 16.0 sacks in 11 games against the Packers, is one of the leaders equipped to set the postseason tone. Since arriving in Minnesota via trade in 2008, Allen has helped the Vikings reach the playoffs 3 times in 5 seasons. In that time, he has been one of the team’s most productive players as well. His 12.0-sack season in 2012 gives him 6 straight seasons of 10+ sacks, and 5 of those seasons have come as a Viking. Only one player (DeMarcus Ware – 77.5) has more sacks than Allen’s 74.0 since 2008, and no NFL player has more sacks than Allen’s 117.0 since he entered the League in 2004.
On Wednesday while meeting with reporters, Allen was asked what his memories were of the last time he appeared in a postseason game – the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season.
“I thought I was going to the Super Bowl, then that got ripped away from us. So, bad memories I guess, because we lost, but still it’s fun, that will always be a game that I cherish,” Allen acknowledged. “It helps you realize how important this opportunity is. I think that is what we have been trying to convey to the guys that haven’t been to the playoffs, the young guys on the team, is that this opportunity doesn’t come around often.
“This is my ninth year in the league and this is I think my fourth playoff appearance, so the odds of getting back aren’t certain and they aren’t always skewed in the positive direction. So guys take advantage of this opportunity. The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen. You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.”
Adrian Peterson offered a similar message when asked about the loss in the NFC title game.
“Well, it definitely wasn’t good memories,” Peterson said. “One game away from the Super Bowl and you lose, so I don’t ever want to have to relive that feeling again.”
Asked if he thought it would take this long to make a return to the postseason, Peterson was candid.
“I didn’t at all,” he said. “That’s why you really can’t take things for granted because making it to the post-season is extremely hard.”
Peterson is in the prime of his career. He’s not a young buck anymore, but he hasn’t been around as long as some of his senior teammates such as Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield. So his perspective is an interesting one when it comes to assessing whether or not this team’s leadership is effective in sending the right message.
“The veteran guys have always been leaders, but this year it’s been more vocal,” Peterson explained. “Having a lot of young guys here that can play ball, and the guys that I call veterans, Antoine and Kevin and Jared, those guys are able to see that. In tough times they came up and called the team together and shared their thoughts. I’m sure they know that their time is starting to come to an end, they know how hard it is to get to the post-season so they want to take advantage of that opportunity. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of guys step up and lead in different ways this year.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams
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