By Craig Malveaux, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –
MINNEAPOLIS — Five months and 16 days — that’s how long Jared Allen had been separated from his Vikings teammates.
“When he came by my office yesterday afternoon, I gave (Allen) a big hug,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “It was the first time I’ve seen him in a while. (OTAs) are voluntary sessions. You can’t get around that. Guys have the option to attend them or not, but the fact that he is here is a positive.”
His absence during voluntary organized team activities was little cause for concern, but Allen was the only Viking who missed them all. Other veterans heeded Frazier’s desire to show up for optional practices and build rapport with new personnel.
The All-Pro defensive end returned to Winter Park for minicamp Tuesday, addressing his offseason whereabouts.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Allen, who will be entering his ninth NFL season. “Coach understood why. I wanted to keep my routine through the offseason. I have a great team in Arizona. Everything was focused and in the right direction.”
Allen, 30, said he felt most comfortable with his trainers and conditioning regiment, the same program that guided him last offseason, when an NFL lockout prevented any OTAs or minicamps. Despite that, Allen recorded his best statistical season, registering a career-high 22 sacks.
“I was in a great mental state, even though we weren’t winning,” he said. “But things were real positive for me coming off that 2010 season when it was just a big ball of negativity around here. So I wanted to stay there.”
Frazier trusted his veteran defensive end’s judgment, although he would have preferred to have Allen with his young teammates.
Allen returned to many unfamiliar faces on defense. Alan Williams is the new defensive coordinator; there’s a new defensive line coach in Brendan Daly, who replaced Karl Dunbar; and some young players will fill key roles left by departing veterans.
Allen said he has been in constant communication with the new staff and expects defensive philosophies to remain the same.
“Dunbar did a great job of managing us and I think Daly knows that,” Allen said. “We can trust that he knows when to work us when we need to be worked and rest us when we need to be rested. He’s not going to try to come in and teach me to be a spinner. We’re going to mesh.”
As for the new teammates, Allen said training camp serves as the proper place to provide veteran leadership and tutelage.
“The best way I can lead is by being the best player that I can be on the field,” he said. “And I feel like that was having a full offseason with my trainers.”
Allen said breaking Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22.5 sacks was his goal after finishing last season a half-sack short.
“There were a couple in my arms or the ones that were just that close,” he said. “I’m kind of bummed out because I’m 23 away again vs. one away, but when you start working out again, it’s motivation.”