Jared Allen One-on-One: Vikings DE talks lockout, Brett Favre & “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors”

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen stands on the field during warm-ups before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 14, 2010. UPI/Brian Kersey

Even if you’re a Green Bay Packer fan, it’s hard not to love Jared Allen.

That’s because the Minnesota Vikings defensive end plays with a fierce relentlessness, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and is a guy that if you spent an hour with him you wouldn’t have the slightest idea he was a million dollar athlete.

Jared will be hosting his 2nd annual charity golf tournament called “Night-Ops II” on Saturday, June 18, which is an event that benefits his foundation “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors.” As Jared explains in the interview, the root of the foundation is that you “should feel your most comfortable at your most vulnerable state.” Thus, “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors” is about helping wounded soldiers by remolding their homes so that they’re handicap accessible. For someone who also has family members and friends that have served in the military, it’s a truly touching cause.

Jared also shared his thoughts on the lockout saga, whether or not Brett Favre’s situation was a major distraction for the 6-10 Vikings last year, and what quarterback he loves drilling the most. It would be an understatement to say that his answers weren’t entertaining.

For more on Jared Allen, including details and information on his “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors” foundation, check out his official website.

Jared Allen: Hey Anthony!

The Scores Report: Hey Jared! How are you?

JA: I’m doing well.

TSR: Is your schedule busy today?

JA: Not really – I’m actually just being lazy. I was supposed to play some golf and go for a mountain bike ride, but I’ve got the wrong size tube on my tires so…you know. (Laughs)

TSR: So here you are stuck talking to me. (Laughs)

JA: (Laughs) Yeah!

TSR: Your annual charity golf tournament goes to a fantastic cause. Can you fill readers in on how your foundation “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors” got started and what it’s all about?

JA: Absolutely. First of all, my family is all military. My grandfather spent 26 years in the Marine Corps, is a retired Marine Corps Captain, and my little brother is in the Marines. I think two of my uncles were Marines in ‘Nam and another one was in the Air Force for 30-some-odd-years. So I have a family lineage of military members, but I got to go on the USO tour and while it wasn’t exactly what my grandfather or uncles went through, I got a look into what our military services go through during the time of war. To be able to see first hand the sacrifices that they make on a daily basis was so humbling. It makes you realize how much we take for granted. After hearing about the multiple trips that these guys have made overseas, when I got back from the USO tour I realized I wanted to do more. I wanted to help and give back to our men and women that serve in the military. So I talked with an Army buddy of mine that’s been over to Iraq three times and we came up with the Jared Allen’s “Homes 4 Wounded Warriors” foundation. We based it on the idea that when you’re at home, you should feel your most comfortable at your most vulnerable state. I know that when I come home from a bad day, a tough practice or whatever it may be, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I know that I’m home and for that time, I’m relaxed and everything like that. So the one thing that we thought of was that the last thing that these soldiers should have to worry about is not being able to get around their house because they’re missing an arm, or a leg, or are blind, or whatever it may be. So that’s where we come in. We remodel an existing home or, if necessary, we completely build a new home so that it’s handicap accessible and fits the specific needs of our wounded vets. So that’s how we started and we just finished our first house in Minnesota for a staff sergeant up there. Now we’re focusing on building a couple of homes for some people down here in Arizona. We work directly with the V.A. so everyone is 100-percent medically discharged and I’ll tell you what, it’s been a cool thing.

TSR: I can only imagine have the opportunity to go overseas and grasp how much the members of our military do for us back home. This sounds like a truly great foundation that you’ve started.

JA: Oh, yeah. And now we’re getting ready for our golf tournament, which is a fun way to raise money. We wanted to figure out a way to incorporate the military aspect into the tournament so we came up with the “Night-Ops” where we play half the holes during the day and half of the holes at night. And we have Marines out there screaming and Air Guard out there doing stuff, so it’s a good time.

TSR: What kind of response have you gotten so far from the people and the lives that you’ve affected?

JA: You know, I don’t know if I’ve affected anyone’s lives. I think they’ve affected me more than I’ve affected them. My biggest take away from being able to see these people overseas are how humble it makes you. To see a smile on their face and to take their minds off the war for a few minutes…if we did that then that’s awesome. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-war or against it, republican or democrat – it doesn’t matter. The point is that these military people from the United States are risking their lives every day so that we can be back home enjoying ours. So from that stand point, the dedication that these people give is what has inspired me. They embrace the suck because it’s their job. You talk to these marines who are living in barracks in the middle of the desert and they don’t bitch, they don’t complain. They get up and they do their job day in and day out. So it makes you appreciate the little things that we take for granted and it makes you realize that a bad day at home is a good day over there. (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) No doubt.

JA: Again, I don’t know how much I’ve affected their lives but I know they’ve affected mine just from the standpoint of the dedication and focus that they’ve had.

TSR: Well I wish you the best of luck at your golf tournament and everything having to do with your foundation, Jared. It’s a great cause and I hope it continues to grow each year.

JA: Definitely, thank you. We’re always looking for ways to better it and the response has been awesome. The one cool thing is that nobody from our foundation makes a dime from it. So 100-percent of these proceeds go directly into building these homes.

TSR: I wanted to get your take on the latest lockout drama. Can fans get their hopes up that this secret meeting held by union officials and the owners last week is a sign that the lockout is ending soon or are the two sides nowhere close?

Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen celebrates after a sack against the Green Bay Packers after their NFL football game in Minneapolis, Minnesota October 5, 2009. The Vikings won the game. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

JA: I think the meetings are a little late but I’m glad they’re happening. Obviously both sides have been negotiating for a while now and the biggest thing that fans need to understand is that this is a lockout and not a strike. The owners have locked us out from work and the reason that we sued was to get back to work. Know what I mean? But these meetings are the only way something is going to get done; by the two sides coming together and finding a middle ground. Unfortunately most of our resources right now on both sides are being wasted on court fees and lawyer costs. Eventually a fair deal has to get done, but at the same time I’m really proud of our guys for standing their ground and not just signing a deal to get it done and get back onto the field. Because there are some fundamental issues that need to be resolved. The long-term healthcare issue is definitely something that needs to be addressed. I know a bunch of retired players that can’t get healthcare unless they own a business or something because they’re so beat up. I’m glad we’re fighting for better benefits for retired players because we’re all going to be retired one day and the outcome of this CBA negotiation is going to determine a lot of things from here on out, just like in ’87. So, there are some fundamental issues that I think must be addressed and the rest is obviously financials and semantics from the ownership side. Remember, we were happy with the deal the way it was. It’s the owners who want us to take a paycut. You don’t give without receiving something back, you know?

TSR: Right.

JA: But I think it is heading in the right direction. There’s a timeline crunch coming on and I think both sides realize that we have the best game in sports and that we have a very good product. Look at what happened in baseball and hockey when they took that product off the field. I mean, they’re still trying to recover. Football is a great game and I think unfortunately they’re implementing too many rules. Heck, I’m in for going back to 14 games and leather helmets – let’s go play ball. (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) I don’t think receivers who have to go over the middle want to go back to leather helmets. They won’t even make it through one game, nevertheless 14 or 16!

JA: Hey, we all sign on the dotted line! I chose to be a receiver, I chose to be a defensive line – we all know the risks.

TSR: (Laughs)

JA: But yeah, I think both sides are heading in the right direction in getting together recently. I think it does some good to get away from the attorneys and obviously this looming appeal is going to play a huge role in this. I think if something can get done before the appeals court can make a decision, I think it’s the best-case scenario for both sides. Obviously you know how emotions can get played out when they announce these types of rulings. People can suddenly feel jaded one way or another, but I think the only way something is going to get done is by communicating. It doesn’t do us any good to sit and wait for a judge to get something done because that’ll prove to only benefit the attorneys.

TSR: The most frustrating thing to me about all of this, you know, besides the fact that there may not be football next year, is that at the start of this fiasco the best way to resolve this issue was for the two sides to talk. And now here we are so many months later and the best way to resolve the issue is if…the two sides talk.

JA: (Laughs) Yeah you know, and that’s what I’ve been trying to say to our fans. As players, we want to play. We filed the suit for the injunction so that we could play and get back to work. That’s our stance on the deal. But yeah, it is, it is annoying. I think people are starting to see the business side of things. As fans, we tend to look at football as purely a sport but whenever money is involved there’s always another side. Unfortunately through this lockout, fans are seeing the brutal side to our game.

TSR: No doubt.

JA: But like you said, you can’t get anything done without communication. As a player having already had to go through the negotiation process and all of that, one thing they always tell you is don’t negotiate through the media. That’s what the owners and all the organizations tell the players: Don’t negotiate through the media. So why did they go through the media back at the start of this? You know, saying that we’re asking for too much when our thing was, ‘show us your books.’ Let’s make a fair deal. Open your books and let’s make this a mathematical equation. You’re making X amount and if we need to help, let’s work something out.

TSR: Right.

JA: But when you starting negotiating through the media, this is what it leads to. Then emotions get involved and hands get forced. You know, this wasn’t something that just came about. The owners knew they were opting out back in ’08 or ’09. So there has been time to get something done. It’s on the owners. We’re ready to get back to work but at the same time you can’t rake us over the coals.

TSR: This is just a generalization on my part, but I think most fans side with the players because like you said, you guys want to play.

JA: Absolutely and hey, I completely understand the fans’ frustration. As a fan myself, you look at the situation and you say: This is ridiculous. Who’s making the decisions here? Let’s get both sides together and get this thing done.’ Attorneys just seem to cause problems. (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) Definitely. Let’s switch gears and talk Vikings. I know it’s not one guy that turns a team that played in the NFC title game two years ago into a 6-10 mess. But was Brett Favre a distraction last year or were there bigger factors that led to the Vikings’ struggles in 2010?

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sacks Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for an eight-yard loss during the fourth quarter of their National Football League game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis October 18, 2009. REUTERS/Bob Cerny (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

JA: Oh, it’s a bunch of factors. I mean, you even look at our NFC championship run and there were games we won…if you look at that Niners game for example, are you kidding me?

TSR: (Laughs) Right!

JA: Greg Lewis was on the team for a week and he makes the greatest catch I have ever seen. (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) The ending of that game was incredible unless you’re a Niner fan.

JA: You look at games like that where they could have gone in a different direction, and unfortunately it kind of went against us last year. I’m not going to sit here and say that the Brett saga wasn’t a distraction because it obviously led to be more than it was. But as players and as an organization, we have to take responsibility for allowing it to become a distraction. At some point when you enter that locker room, everything outside of that locker room has to be put away so that you can perform your best on the field. We get paid to put our best on the field and win day in and day out. We’re human too, so outside issues are going to cause problems sometimes. But at some point they have to be addressed the right way and moved on from and that’s really what happened. There was a lack of communication from the organization and then they’re scrambling, and then all of a sudden they’re dealing with a head coach-quarterback controversy, then they wind up firing Brad in the middle of the season. And you know, Brad wasn’t to blame for everything. I’m good friends with Coach Childress still and I thank him for getting me to Minnesota. But when things get mishandled, now you’ve got people trying to right a ship by all extreme measures and I’ll tell you what, it really got messed up. Then our dome collapsed and anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. (Laughs) What is that? Murphy’s Law or something?

TSR: (Laughs) When it rains it pours, right?

JA: (Laughs) Yeah! I’ll never forget, we were getting ready to play the Giants and my buddy Lawrence Tynes, the kicker for the Giants who I played with in Kansas City, calls me. I answered and I asked why he was calling me so early and on the day of the game no-less. He goes, “Your roof collapsed!” I said, “Whaaaaat?” (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs)

JA: It was 5:30 or 6 o’clock in the morning and I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me!

TSR: What else could go wrong?

JA: No kidding. So we had a combination of things happen to us last year and you can’t blame one person. But like I said, I don’t want to make excuses because at the end of the day it’s your responsibility as players to put your best product on the field and to win games. And you know what? It’s part of the league and a lot of teams have gone through it. We’ve got some stability back now. We have Coach Frazier. We don’t really know what’s going on with our offense, our quarterback or the league, but we’ll figure all of that out eventually. (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) I don’t want to keep you all day, so let’s go rapid fire from here on out. Give me some quick-hit thoughts on these topics.

JA: No problem.

TSR: Christian Ponder will be your starting quarterback in 2011.

JA: (Long pause) Depends on free agency.

TSR: Ray Edwards will be a Viking next year.

JA: Uh, not looking so good.

TSR: (Laughs) Well how about this: Is he going to be a boxer or a Viking?

JA: Well, I’ll have to go back and study the tapes. (Laughs) I think he’s going to be a boxer over a Viking.

TSR: (Laughs) All right, last one: I know hitting every quarterback is fun, but which one gets you fired up the most? I think I know the answer to this question but I’ll ask anyway.

JA: Peyton Manning. You always like hitting the best, you know? I used to hit Peyton a lot but it took me five years to actually sack him, so that’s probably my most memorable hit. Along with Tom Brady and those future Hall of Famers.

TSR: That’s a good answer but I’ve got to tell you, I’m shocked. I’m shocked it’s not one of two guys: Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (L) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (R) for a loss of eight yards in the second quarter of a NFL football game at Lambeau Field Green Bay, Wisconsin November 1, 2009. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

JA: Oh well yeah, yeah. Aaron is a hell of a quarterback and he’s tough to get to, too. I think I’ve played against him so much now that you just come to expect that you’re going to get to him a couple of times at least.

TSR: That memory from a couple of years ago when their offensive line was a mess and you just teed off on him keeps popping into my head. What was that, a Monday night game?

JA: Yeah, it was a Monday night game. Then I got like sacks three up there so I got him 7.5 times in one year, which is funny because Chad Clifton is a guy I really enjoy playing against. We tend to have these games where up there, he may get the better of me, and then we get under the dome and I usually get a sack or two on him. So we’ve been having some great battles over the last four years of my career.

TSR: This has been a lot of fun and while I could easily talk a couple of hours, I’ll let you go. Thank you for sitting down with us – I really appreciate your time.

JA: Not a problem – any time.

TSR: And best of luck with your golf tournament.

JA: Thank you so much.

TSR: Take care.

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