Allen feeling age facing different Detroit lineman
SEP 05, 2013 7:25p ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Every time Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has lined up against the Detroit Lions in his career he's put his hand in the dirt and looked across the line at left tackle Jeff Backus.
Allen has seen Backus more than any other left tackle thanks to those twice-yearly matchups. For the first time against Detroit, Allen will see a new face across from him after 11 meetings against Backus, who retired in the offseason. The Lions moved 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff to the left side to replace Backus as part of an offensive line overhaul.
Allen has seen plenty of tackles come and go during his nine-year career. Facing another newcomer Sunday in the regular-season opener at Detroit only reinforces one thing for Allen, 31.
"The weirdest thing is, it makes you realize how old you're getting, when guys you've played with your whole career start retiring," Allen said. "But I think he was a few years older than me, so I'm good. There's some familiarity there, so sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing because you can prepare the same way, thinking you're going to get the same process but it doesn't always happen. We had some good matchups throughout his career."
Allen usually enjoyed those meetings with Backus. In 11 career games against Detroit, Allen has 13.5 sacks. The only team he's beaten more often for sacks is the Green Bay Packers with 16 sacks.
Matching up with Reiff also energizes Allen though.
"I'm excited," Allen said. "I think having a new young guy over there just motivates you more."
But with the familiarity gone, Allen has had to do extra work to research his new opponent. Reiff has played sparingly in his career, mainly as a swing tackle for the Lions.
"There's always enough tape out there," Allen said. "You just got to find it."
Lions coach Jim Schwartz referred to Backus as a "security blanket." The blanket for quarterback Matthew Stafford is now gone and Reiff will have his hands full with the veteran Allen, who's healthy after having offseason shoulder and knee surgeries.
"He's very difficult to handle because he can do so many things, he rushes inside, rushes outside, he's hard to figure out," Schwartz said of Allen. "Whoever is blocking him is going to really go to battle every single play and never have one play where you're not at your best, because Jared can make you pay. A lot of forced fumbles, tipped balls, sacks, that's what he's known for, those are the game-changing plays that he makes for Minnesota's defense."
Allen has always made those plays against Detroit. The Lions offensive gives Allen the chance to do what he does best: get after the quarterback. Stafford has attempted the most passes of any quarterback each of the past two years.
Asked about what stands out about Stafford, Allen joked: "He obviously has a very good rotator cuff and shoulder structure because he throws the ball about 1,000 times a year."
Even without Backus, Allen is excited about the start of his 10th NFL season and sixth with the Vikings. He said Sundays during the season are always special to him and will retire when he isn't excited about Sundays any longer.
He's still trying for his first Super Bowl and isn't thinking about the clock running out on his NFL career even though more of those familiar opponents are disappearing.
"Honestly, I'm focused on this year and trying to win a championship here," Allen said. "I feel good. If you would've asked me last year, I would've said it was ringing like Big Ben. I was beat up. I was hurt. You start wondering, is age getting the best of you? But after surgery, after getting healed up, I feel great. I was able to train again, work out, feel young.
"Part of having a young locker room, they keep you young. I'm ready to rock. If it's three years, five years, one year, I don't know. I'm going to go out and play. All I know is I still have the passion to play and as long as I'm able to do it at a high level, I'm going to compete."
Williams still out: Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has lined up next to Allen the past five years, missed practice again Thursday and his status for Sunday's game is increasingly in doubt with his lingering knee injury.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Williams, who's been out since taking a low hit in the third preseason game, will need to practice Friday to be activated for Sunday's game.
Frazier said Williams is improving and his status as an 11-year veteran should help him be ready for game action with limited practice. But Frazier needs Williams to prove he can protect himself in the game and be effective.
"Just see him push up against people and move around a little bit and just see how he responds to other guys pushing up against him, that would be a plus," Frazier said.
Sharrif Floyd, who could be counted on to play more snaps if Williams misses Sunday's game, was still listed as limited on Thursday's injury report. Floyd is trying to get up to speed quickly after dealing with his own knee injury, which required surgery, but the Vikings would look for several players to help fill the void for Williams.
"I'm not sure Sharrif will get the majority of snaps," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "We'll see how it all shakes out at the end of the week with who is healthy and who goes and we'll kind of make a decision there."
Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness. Safety Harrison Smith, listed as a back injury, went from a limited participant to a full practice on Thursday. Cornerback Chris Cook (groin), linebacker Larry Dean (shoulder) and linebacker Erin Henderson (heel) were full participants.
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