On Tuesday morning, Jared Allen stood in a New York hotel ballroom in front of a crowd of reporters, wearing a snazzy pullover, dress pants and a wraparound microphone that’d make Steve Jobs jealous. The defensive end who once celebrated sacks by lassoing an invisible steer had officially entered the corporate world.
Everyone was there for the launch of a new spring football league, the Alliance of American Football, co-founded by Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol, son of the longtime television executive, Dick. Polian and Ebersol had recruited Allen to be one of their early investors and had discussed the idea of him working in “player relations” in some role.
One of the league’s selling points, in fact, is player relations. Allen explained to the crowd that the league plans to have an “independent organization” of medical professionals oversee the player safety program, implement “innovative bonuses” tied to things like wins and stats, and give players scholarships for their lives after football.
After the presentation, The MMQB caught up with Allen about life in retirement, one heated grievance he had with the league office as a player and one topic he didn’t cover in his presentation: how his new football league would handle players kneeling during the national anthem.
THE MMQB: I don’t think a lot of people know what you’ve been up to recently. Are you enjoying being retired?
JARED ALLEN: I love being retired! That’s a good thing. I don’t need to be in front of a camera. I was fighting like heck not to have to come out for this [press conference]. I’m teasing. No, I’ve just been hanging out, just made a move to Music City [Nashville]. I love being a dad, a husband—I try not to annoy my wife too much. I’m a soccer dad now. [Editor’s note: Allen has two daughters ages six and three.]
THE MMQB: Are you coaching soccer now?
ALLEN: Only part-time. I’m the guy who steps in when the coach can’t be there. Just one time.
The MMQB: Your Vikings made some big moves in free agency. What’d you think of the Kirk Cousins signing?
ALLEN: Hopefully that works out well for them. It had to be a tough decision for Rick [Spielman], because [Case] Keenum brings you all the way there. One thing I know about Rick and the organization with the Vikings, he’s truly always looking to improve and to reach his goals. I have nothing but the highest respect for Rick. I think that he’s proven over the years, he’s been able to put together functional, competitive teams. And the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl.
THE MMQB: Well, the closest they got before last season was when you guys lost to the Saints in the NFC Championship game with Brett Farve.
ALLEN: In 2009, yeah.
THE MMQB: Does it still sting?
ALLEN: It does. I laugh about it. So [former Saints defensive back] Roman Harper is a good buddy of mine, and we laugh about it. I still tell him, like, ‘[Pierre Thomas] fumbled on 4th-and-1! I don’t know why we’re having this conversation! You’re wearing my Super Bowl ring and that’s not OK.’”
[Editor’s note: Allen is referring to a play in overtime when the Saints went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Vikings’ 43-yard line. Thomas leapt over the line and picked up two yards. The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted that Thomas “almost fumbled” on the play.]
THE MMQB: Now that the Vikings signed Cousins, do you think he’s the one to get them over that hump?
ALLEN: I hope so! I think what they’ve shown over the years, especially with Mike Zimmer is, they’re going to be balanced. As long as they don’t go in and expect Kirk to throw the ball 100 times a game, that’s where they’ll be successful. You play great defense, you have a balanced running attack, and you allow the quarterback to take control of the game when he needs to. That’s their style. That’s what they do to win. I think you keep that same process, you just enhance one of the parts.
THE MMQB: Looking back at your career, I think people forget you had 22 sacks in a season in 2011—one sack away from breaking the single-season record.
ALLEN: Ah, it breaks my heart. I thought I was going to get it several times, too. I go back and look at the ones I missed that year. People don’t realize I actually had 23. So I sacked Aaron Rodgers in a game. He stepped up [in the pocket] and he ran into [Marshall] Newhouse. He lost the ball, picked the ball back up and I sacked him. It went down as a sack at first. On Wednesday, the league took it back and called it a ‘muff’ and gave us a ‘team sack.’ It took a sack away from me, so I actually had 23!
THE MMQB: Did you fight the league office over it?
ALLEN: Absolutely! Oh I fought it tooth and nail!
THE MMQB: Really? You called them and everything?
ALLEN: Oh yeah, my agent and I. They were like, ‘Oh, no, no, he fumbled the football.’ Five years ago that was a sack! In Strahan’s era that was a sack! It used to be, if the quarterback dropped the ball and fell on it, you count that as a sack. They started calling that a muff, where an individual player didn’t get a sack, they called that a team sack.
My argument was that he caught [the ball], came up in the pocket, made a football move and he fumbled the ball [after running into] my guy. He re-gained control of the ball—he could’ve thrown it—and then I tackled him, right?
THE MMQB: What would Jared Allen want in a football league?
ALLEN: I think just what we announced today. You look at player health, player overall well-being—I think that’s something huge. Having communication; the best teams I ever played on, I felt like I had a connection to the front office. In Minnesota, Rick and I were really tight. Zygi [Wilf] would always come down and talk to the players. You really got to see Mark and Zygi [Wilf] on that same level. The owner’s office, meeting rooms and whatever were all on one plane. They were like, ‘We don’t want a hierarchy system.’ The best teams I’ve been on have had that bond, that commonality, [the thinking that] everybody’s in this together.
That’s what we want this league to be. We want the players to feel like they have a stake in this league. You’re not just here to put dollars in someone’s pocket. You’re here to better yourself, better your talents, and open some doors just through networking and the people that you’re meeting.
I played football for 12 years. Now I’m sitting here with Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian as an investor in a spring football league. Who thought that was going to come?
THE MMQB: You’ve done some charity work involving military veterans. What’s your take on the national anthem protests sweeping the NFL? Will there be a policy about protests in this new league?
ALLEN: I think we all have our own political views. We’ve talked about it, and Bill [Polian] can answer that question. The Alliance, we want to support our athletes in all of their endeavors. It’s very important to work with that team, in that community, and have our players in the community doing philanthropic endeavors. That is very important.
If teams want to stay in the locker room, we’re going to allow [it]—but if you’re on the field for the national stadium, you will stand. You will be required to stand. … Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—we want you to be in your community. As a guy who has his own charity, I want guys to be passionate about the causes they have. We’re fully supportive. But just like any job, you’ve got to have rules.