Jared Allen leaned against the wall next to his locker, soaking it all in.
This was Jan. 24, the day of the NFC Championship Game. And while his teammates were laughing and hugging and celebrating their 49-15 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Allen — who was dressed in street clothes because he did not play due to a broken bone in his foot — nevertheless had a smile on his face.
“Because we all put so much into it — blood, sweat and tears,” Allen said. “That’s what it’s about, it’s about the fellowship and the camaraderie. That’s what makes this team so special.”
Allen is 33 years old now, his best years behind him. After seven straight years of double-digit sack seasons, that number trailed off to 5 1/2 with the Chicago Bears in 2014 and only two this year with the Bears and Panthers, despite starting 15 games in each season.
“In Chicago I had some ups and downs, I got sick and ruptured a disk in my back,” Allen said. “Then coming here, my first game here I ruptured my disk in my back again. So there’s been some injuries.
Yet, Allen, who spent his first four NFL seasons as a dynamite pass rusher with the Chiefs, is as fulfilled as ever. In his 12th season, he’s finally going to the Super Bowl, and that’s enough to make him forget about the injuries and drop in production.
“You know what’s funny — and I was talking with somebody about this the other day — football is always humbling,” Allen said. “But it’s been crazy because this year is probably the worst statistical one I’ve ever had, but it’s the most success I’ve ever had.