LINKOn the football field, Jared Allen is like a spindly, spastic and mustachioed mass of metal drawn to quarterbacks.
In his Eden Prairie townhouse, Allen is listless and lazy, his magnet a greenish-brown microfiber couch with a chaise.
One night last week, when a visitor steps into his doorway with a box of Chinese takeout, Allen barks from the couch, 'Let yourself in.'
If he does step away — to eat, to use the bathroom, to play American Idol on his Nintendo Wii — Allen soon returns to his refuge teeming with pillows and blankets.
'He loves that thing,' Allen's agent and friend Ken Harris says. 'When he's comfortable, it's hard to get him to move. The only way he might get up is if a quarterback ran across the room.'
Allen takes an hourlong nap on the couch when he gets home from practice, and he spends most of the evening there, except to briefly sit at the dining room table to eat ginger chicken, broccoli beef and steamed white rice and to take visitors on a tour.
This is how one of the NFL's most colorful characters — the Menace with a Mullet — spends his down time?
"When I first came into the league, I was enjoying being single and hanging out with the guys," Allen says. "But to be honest with you, I don't have the energy to go out and run around anymore. Sunday through Friday is such a physical drain.
"I'm just exhausted and want to lie on this couch," he says.
Since the Vikings paid a king's ransom for him
— it cost $74.5 million over six years, plus first-round and two third-round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for his rights — Allen has fulfilled expectations. His team-high 10 1/2 sacks rank him in the league's top 10, even though he sprained his shoulder on Nov. 2, and his pass rushing is one of the keys for the Vikings' beleaguered pass defense rising from last through Week 13 last year to 21st this season.
"He understands his role, and he loves it," Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar says. "He wants to be the bell cow. (Pat Williams and Kevin Williams) want tackles for loss, and he knows his thing is sacks."
But Allen, who likened Kansas City to a "big town," is still adjusting to how "huge" the Twin Cities are.
"You can't park anywhere in Minneapolis," Allen says.
So aside from hunting trips to Hinckley on many Mondays and Tuesdays, Allen spends most of the time away from Winter Park at his townhouse, on his greenish-brown microfiber couch. The "highlight" of many weeks is Thursday night, when he and girlfriend Jordan Parrish head to Ryan Longwell's house for couples' Bible study.
"We might also leave the house on Friday nights for dinner," Allen says.
Running with the bulls, boar wrestling, jiu-jitsu sparring, shark diving and hunting in New Zealand are reserved for spring and summer.
"I leave the excitement for the offseason," says Allen, who is considering trips to Belize and Italy in 2009.
But for now, the highlight is an episode of "Law & Order" and a televised fight featuring a mixed martial artist named Alex "The Assassin" Karalexis that his company, Jared Allen 69 Inc., sponsors.
In fact, Parrish senses an opportunity and insists Allen sport one of his company's T-shirts for a photo shoot.
"What shirt do you want to wear?" Jordan says.
"I don't care," Allen replies.
One of the T-shirts shows the evolution of man, only Allen is two steps ahead of an ape and one step behind modern man.
"We make it white trash," Allen proudly says of his T-shirts.
Jordan picks one for him and unbuttons the shirt he has on.
"It's free advertising for the Web site," she says.
Allen rests, stays off his feet and generally lays low because he saves his energy for practices and game days.
Although he is the NFL's most productive pass rusher since entering the league in 2004 (53.5 sacks), Allen doesn't forget he played at Idaho State and entered the league in the fourth round as a potential long-snapper.
"He was a 195-pound kid coming out of high school," Dunbar says. "I coached at LSU. We don't recruit those kids to play D-line at LSU. They come out 6-3, 270."
Derrick Burgess and Kyle Vanden Bosch had more sacks than Allen in 2005, but his 11 tied Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts. Yet Allen was the odd man out in Pro Bowl voting, despite having more tackles, one more forced fumble and two more fumble recoveries.
"That's when our rivalry started," Allen says.
Although he finished with a league-high 15 1/2 sacks, Allen was concerned his team's losing record might hurt him.
"I thought I'd get hosed out of the Pro Bowl again," he says.
But he got a text message from Chiefs teammate Tony Gonzalez, a perennial Pro Bowl tight end, letting him know he made the team.
"Drinks are on you at the Pro Bowl," Allen recalls. "I got all choked up. I was like, 'This is freaking awesome.' "
But he isn't motivated by Pro Bowls or paychecks.
Allen says he wants a Super Bowl "more than anything in the world," he wants at least 100 sacks, and he wants a legacy that pays homage to old-school legends and places him among the NFL's elite.
"I want to play this game with a passion and a style like the great players before me," Allen says. "Hopefully, my name can be mentioned with the Howie Longs, Jack Lamberts and Deacon Joneses, guys who played hard-core football.
"I can't be an innovator (like them)," Allen says, "but I hope my play keeps what they started alive."
Retired players certainly would respect Allen for not missing any games after suffering a third-degree (the most serious) shoulder sprain.
"When he got hurt, I was like, 'I don't know what we're going to do,' " Dunbar says. "But he came in here that Monday and said, 'Coach, I'm playing. I don't care what happens. You can cut it off.' "
And while many players at his position are known as pass-rushing specialists, Allen prides himself on his versatility.
"He's fast enough to go outside, underneath or bull you," Vikings veteran offensive lineman Artis Hicks says. "You add that relentless mind-set with the physical skills he has, and you get the big numbers he has."
HIS OWN BEAT
Dunbar insists that Allen "fits in," although he puzzles teammates with his fashion sense (cowboy boots and hats), outlandish comments and actions. On Friday, Allen stripped, screamed and streaked through the locker room and shower area.
During training camp, Allen and long-snapper Cullen Loeffler headed to a Wal-Mart and purchased matching Jorts, aka jean shorts.
"He is who he is," linebacker Chad Greenway says. "He won't change for anybody."
The other defensive linemen can't get a word in edgewise with Allen and Pat Williams around.
"With those two," Dunbar says, "you don't have to worry about anyone falling asleep in meetings. Something is always going on."
The linemen love to "hate" on one another, and Allen makes himself an easy target with his mullet-style haircut, which he sometimes jokingly calls his moo-lay.
"It's like a boy named Sue," Greenway says. "You got to be tough to wear a mullet like that."
When asked about Allen's haircut, Vikings safety Darren Sharper just shakes his head and says, "To each his own."
At his townhouse, Allen works hard to impress upon his girlfriend and visitors the virtues of a mullet.
"It's bad-###," Allen says. "Think of all the bad asses; I bet 99 percent have mullets."
"Steven Seagal," Allen says.
When reminded that the action actor's signature is a ponytail, Allen immediately quips, "That's a version of a mullet."
"Rick Springfield (think "Jessie's Girl"), John Stamos (think "Full House"), Hacksaw Jim Dugan (think WWF and 2x4), A.C. Slater (think Mario Lopez and "Saved by the Bell") and Billy Ray Cyrus.
" 'Achy Breaky Heart' sold like a million copies," says Allen.
Parrish, once again, isn't buying it.
"He needs a haircut. Look at it," she says.
Allen's response: "Embrace the mullet."
But his teammates have some new ammo, something Harris, his agent, doesn't want to leak to opposing offensive linemen.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder melts when he's around Lucy, a 3 1/2-year-old purse dog. In fact, Parrish says the two of them sleep on the couch together ... and both of them snore.
"If only his opponents knew he was curled up on the couch with a yip-yip, girly dog, he'd be toast," Harris says.
Says Allen, "This is the softer side of me."
"The guys are going to kill me."
His visitors insist he actually get off the couch and lead a tour of his townhouse before they officially wear out their welcome.
Allen heads down a flight of stairs, pointing to a flat-screen television and a Rock Band drum set. There is also a Wii, on which American Idol is apparently often cued up.
"Simon said I'm the greatest singer he's ever heard," Allen says.
"They say I sound like Whitney Houston," Parrish chimes in.
Quips Allen, "Yeah, right."
He points to his master bedroom, which, like most of the house, is conservatively and modestly decorated.
"I got to pick all this out," Allen says.
Parrish decorated their house in Arizona, where they spend much of the offseason.
Allen leads everyone into another bedroom, where he stores his hunting gear. He pulls out a knife, the one he used to kill a 200-pound boar. He also shows off a holster that he says he bought at a gas station in Texas.
"I'm pretty sure they stained it by urinating on it," he says.
Then the centerpiece of the tour: Allen's six-foot-tall gun vault, packed with enough weapons to arm a militia.
Guns are among the many new frontiers for Parrish. She doesn't know how to load the pink handgun Allen bought on her birthday, and she struggles with some basic household responsibilities.
"I'm a house girlfriend," Parrish says.
She just learned to cook a month and a half ago, although she cooks up specialties like white wine halibut. Yet there are still some follies along the way.
Earlier in the day, Parrish was alarmed when she saw smoke and heard a commotion from the dryer.
She hadn't checked the pockets of Allen's pheasant hunting jacket, which was filled with bullets.
She also shrunk his waterproof pants.
"I'm new to all this domesticating stuff," she says.
Allen rolls his eyes.
The next day, though, Allen says he appreciates Parrish's "spirit."
"She's very opinionated," Allen says. "Sometimes I'm like, 'Jordan, you don't have to say everything on your mind.' She doesn't take (expletive) from anybody."
After the tour, Allen assumes the usual position — back on the greenish-brown microfiber couch. He looks for updates on his fighter, Karalexis (he lost in the second round by technical knockout), and he pets Lucy.
"When he gets away from here, he disconnects," Dunbar says. "That's when you can really flourish, and he understands that."