Jared Allen in natural habitat as a leader
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter September 2, 2014 10:09PM
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Updated: September 3, 2014 3:37PM
Jared Allen is perched in a tree, a steel spear in hand. His every move is calculating. He’s quiet and calm with a bull elk in sight.
And then, wham.
Allen puts the spear in the elk’s back, just behind its head and massive antlers. It gallops away, only to be found later, dead in the brush, the spear still implanted.
The video of Allen’s famous hunt in 2009 can be found online. Just Google ‘‘Jared Allen,’’ ‘‘hunting’’ and ‘‘spear.’’ Allen’s boundless energy is on full display. The passion of the hunt never leaves his camouflaged face.
‘‘That’s something else,’’ Bears defensive end Willie Young said with a chuckle. ‘‘It’s nuts.’’
The best part may be the warning Allen delivers upon arriving at his kill.
‘‘All you bears out there, watch out,’’ he says. ‘‘You’re next.’’
Allen was just starting to wreak havoc in the NFC North at that time with the Minnesota Vikings. He has 15 sacks and 41 solo tackles against the Bears — his best overall production against any opponent, per Pro Football Reference.
Now, the four-time All-Pro defensive end is the face of the Bears’ defensive remaking after a disastrous campaign in 2013.
‘‘No disrespect to where the Vikings are right now,’’ Bears coach Marc Trestman said, ‘‘but that’s a very good football player you have to account for on every play.’’
Life of the locker room
With his trademark smirk, linebacker Lance Briggs peered across the locker room and gave Allen — joking around with Young and left tackle Jermon Bushrod — a long glance.
‘‘He’s got a good attitude, I’d say,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘He’s got a lot of energy. It’s the same way he plays. He’s very passionate — extremely passionate.’’
The Bears’ locker room, often an empty place for reporters in the days of former coach Lovie Smith, seems to overflow with characters. Last year, it was tight end Martellus Bennett and guard Kyle Long who enhanced the new outgoing dynamic.
Now it’s Allen.
The comparisons with departed defensive end Julius Peppers, now with the Green Bay Packers, will be unavoidable for Allen. Peppers, a rarely interviewed and reserved player, remains revered at Halas Hall. But the differences in personality are distinct.
‘‘I don’t know that one kind of personality wins more games than another,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘Whether [Allen] was quiet or whether he was outgoing, most important is that he does all the right things.’’
But Allen’s spark is turning into a fire.
‘‘He’s a guy that brings some life to the team,’’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘‘Any time you can add that type of vocal leadership and just what he brings to the team alone, that’s always good.’’
‘‘Some life’’ was a goal for the Bears after 2013. General manager Phil Emery said as much after Allen signed in March, saying he has a ‘‘boyish love for the game.’’
‘‘Any locker room can use that,’’ Emery said. ‘‘The Chicago Bears certainly can use that.’’
Everyone says Allen’s engaging ways have been infectious, from the offseason regimen to training camp to the preseason.
‘‘He’s got a great attitude,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘He’s always positive and understands what we’re doing out here. As far as moving forward, he’s obviously one of the leaders on this team, a leader on this team who is going to lead emotionally, physically and all those things.’’
That was never part of Allen’s plan — just a byproduct of being Jared Allen.
‘‘I’ve actually been more nervous here than I am in most places,’’ Allen said. ‘‘I’m the new guy. I like people to watch me work and let them understand what I’m all about.’’
Ready to dance
Jennings hated to see it live but still loved Allen’s calf-roping sack dance. Allen has promised to keep it going, to the joy of Jennings and others.
‘‘I can’t wait to see him get out there and get his first sack and many more to come,’’ Jennings said. ‘‘That’s what we hope for. That’s what I hope for as a corner, as a secondary.’’
To maintain his production, Allen, who has 19 more sacks than Peppers over the last four seasons, closely examines film, looking for ‘‘the opportunities I almost had and opportunities that I missed and how I get there,’’ he said.
His review of 2013 showed him his first-step explosion needed to improve. So he flew in his trainer, Chip Smith, to Arizona, where he lives, and to Chicago for extra speed work.
‘‘Just being 32, you want to do preventive training,’’ Allen said. ‘‘Keeping your fast-twitch muscles fast-twitch is a good way to stay in the league and stay productive.’’
Trestman, stopping in on defensive meetings, has a special appreciation for Allen’s approach. Allen is meticulous, just like Trestman is with his offense.
‘‘He’s really detailed,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He’s setting a really good example for the younger players on how to take notes and how to ask questions.’’
Lamarr Houston stands to benefit most as the end opposite Allen. Young, the top reserve, and others will feel it, too. Young’s career is full of pressures and hits, but sacks have been elusive.
That’s not the case for Allen, who has turned his ‘‘incredible feel for location of the quarterback,’’ as Emery put it, into 128 ½ sacks, the 12th-most in NFL history.
‘‘You can have guys who are arrogant and don’t see a need or any reason why they should help a young guy out sometimes, in some cases,’’ Young said. ‘‘But that’s not him. The crazy part about it is that he’s sincere about getting you right and doing the right things that’s going to help you be successful.’’
At home in Chicago
Chicago has been everything Allen thought it would be when he signed a four-year, $32 million contract after the Bears emerged as ‘‘the right team with the right situation,’’ he said.
His wife, Amy, is from the area, making this a familiar place where he’s happy to have his two young daughters. Downtown dinners might not happen, but there was a recent trip to Navy Pier.
‘‘I’m a family man,” said Allen, who was raised on a horse ranch.
He has found comfort at Halas Hall and is determined to make the Bears’ defense the envy of the league again.
‘‘This building [Halas Hall] itself, you walk in and there’s greatness everywhere,’’ Allen said. ‘‘You can’t help but want to be a part of that.’’
And then there’s his connection with his teammates.
‘‘I can see me getting out on that water and showing him a thing or two [about fishing],’’ said Young, an avid outdoorsman like Allen, ‘‘and then him taking me out in them woods.’’