Allen extending no special courtesies to Romo

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This Sunday at the Metrodome, with more than 60,000 fans screaming their encouragement, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen(notes) will expend every ounce of energy trying to do what he does best. Any chance the All-Pro pass rusher gets to pummel Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo(notes) and dispossess him of the football in the teams' NFC divisional playoff clash, Allen intends to proceed without mercy.

Even though he's buddies with Romo's dad.

"I love Ramiro," Allen said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "I've spent a lot of time with him and he's a great guy. We met because we have the same financial guy. And we always talk football; but once we get on the field, anything goes. Trust me: Tony's not going to take it easy on trying to pick us apart the whole game."

Allen, one of the NFL's most relentless defenders, may not have the intrinsic hatred toward quarterbacks that, say, Colts All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney possesses, but he loves making their lives miserable on game day.

Since being acquired by the Vikings in a costly but laudable trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Allen has been a Minnesota madman, registering 14½ sacks and earning Pro Bowl honors in each of his two seasons. This season, Allen forced five fumbles, recovered three, registered a safety, intercepted a pass, knocked down four others and recorded 50 tackles.

Other than that, he was pretty quiet.

Even in a huddle featuring physical, productive defenders such as linemen Pat Williams(notes) and Kevin Williams(notes) and cornerback Antoine Winfield(notes), Allen's intensity stands out.

Saints safety Darren Sharper(notes), a Vikings teammate of Allen's in '08, recalls him "walking around the locker room naked … all the time." (I'll spare you the descriptive specifics of that Sharper image.)

In other words, Allen has retained the edgy attitude from his days as an over-the-top partier – he spent two days in jail in 2007 after his second DUI arrest in five months – while cleaning up his life. Allen, who has said he stopped drinking alcohol nearly three years ago, insists his past troubles "don't even cross my mind anymore. It's just a maturity level. You've just got to grow up. So many people don't grow up or take care of the issues at hand. For me, it was just learning how to handle the responsibility."

Allen has refined his game as well. Former San Diego Chargers tackle Roman Oben(notes) remembers noticing the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Chiefs rookie's raw talent after their second meeting in 2004 and telling him afterward: "Look, man, you've got great second effort and you can turn the corner. With the crowd noise here, you could do the kinds of things [2009 Hall of Fame inductee] Derrick Thomas did."

It turned out that Allen, because of the Chiefs' reluctance to commit to him long term, ended up in the former domain of standout Vikings defensive ends such as Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Chris Doleman. Whereas the Chiefs have endured two miserable seasons without him, Allen has helped the Vikings win a pair of NFC North titles and freely reminds his ex-teammates that he's still in the Super Bowl hunt.

"It's phenomenal here," Allen says. "I talk to some of my buddies down there, and I tell 'em, 'I'm glad I got out.' I tell you what: They're miserable down there."

Some of the opposing tackles who've been entrusted with trying to block Allen without help can relate.

"He's a great athlete," Oben says. "I don't want to pass him off as the stereotypical white defensive end – hard-working, student of the game, all that b.s. He's a much better athlete than people label him as.

Allen has double-digit sacks in four of his six seasons.
(Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)

"He gets compared to [Bills defensive end] Aaron Schobel(notes) and [Packers linebacker Aaron] Kampman, but he's more of a Michael Strahan(notes)-type rusher. He works himself into his rushes, and he does a lot of different stuff. He's equally effective on every down, and it's very hard to do the things he does – to turn the corner, to have multiple moves – when you're that tall and long."

Tall and long is also an apt description for Allen's iconic hairstyle, a literal throwback look that distinguishes him from pretty boys like Romo. Noting that his first date with current fiancée Amy Johnson (whom Allen calls "the hottest woman on earth") was a salsa-dancing session, Allen says: "The mullet just classes it right up."

"Ah yes, the mullet," says Ramiro Romo. "That's Jared's calling card."

Well, that and the whole quarterback-harassment thing. Two years ago in Hawaii, in the days leading up to the Pro Bowl, Ramiro introduced Tony to Allen, who had just completed what would be his final season with the Chiefs.

"He was on the AFC squad, so they were going up against each other," Ramiro recalls. "I told him, 'Hey, you'd better take care of Tony.' He said, 'C'mon, man, you can't ask me to do that!'"

That appeal, of course, was for a glorified exhibition. With a trip to the NFC championship game at stake, Ramiro won't even bother asking for lenience.

"We're excited to hit them in the mouth, to kind of shut everybody up," Allen says of the Cowboys. "We play a violent game, so I'm always jacked up. It's a physical sport. I'm just trying to hurt the guy in front of me."

No offense, Mr. Romo.


Though Kurt Warner(notes) will treat us to another electric performance, Drew Brees(notes) and the Saints will ride an early offensive outburst to victory over the Cardinals at the Superdome on Saturday. … Even with the great Ray Lewis(notes) in the house, Dwight Freeney(notes) and Robert Mathis(notes) will be the defenders doing the most damage at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts defeat the Ravens on Saturday night. … Terence Newman(notes) will gain possession of Brett Favre's(notes) pigskin property at least once Sunday as the Cowboys clamp down on the Vikings in Minneapolis.


San Diego, where I can see another Jets-Chargers playoff clash (a lot has changed in five years) and spend Sunday night about a football field away from the Pacific Ocean, albeit while staring at a computer screen until the sun comes up.


1. After learning of Seahawks coach Jim Mora's dismissal, former Seattle GM Tim Ruskell once again whipped out his cell phone and texted, "btw u r so fired … lmao … pete carroll? … smh"

2. In an effort to put our differences behind us, Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle(notes) and I completed a gift exchange: He gave me a digital voice recorder, and I bought him a portable polygraph machine.

3. After sending Reggie Wayne(notes) a text to inform his ex-University of Miami teammate of the death of his pet snake, Ed Reed(notes) confessed to killing the animal by sending this video.


How surreal is it for Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wisc., to be playing the biggest game of his career Sunday against a team quarterbacked by an ex-Packers quarterbacking legend? "It is kind of weird," Ramiro Romo says of the matchup between his son and Brett Favre. "When Tony was growing up, we were obviously watching Brett play, and it was incredible to see the things he did. We were big Packer fans, and you could see Tony looked up to him. Now all of a sudden, here they are, playing against each other." Yet Favre's tumultuous departure from the Packers and eventual move to their bitter rivals has helped Ramiro's family and friends become unabashed Cowboys fans. In September of '08, when I hung out with the Burlington-based crew at a massive tailgate outside Lambeau Field before the Cowboys played the Packers, I got the feeling that a lot of the attendees, while sincerely rooting for Romo to do well (hey, he scored them tickets!), were swallowing hard and fighting against their Packer-backer tendencies. This time – not a problem. "I've been doing a little survey around Wisconsin," Ramiro says. "Obviously, there's a few Favre guys, but a lot of people do not want to see him win with the Vikings. I'd say at least [90 percent]. They say, 'No Super Bowl for Brett.' I tell you, this is serious business for Green Bay. So yeah, they want to see Tony win."


The people of Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's catastrophic earthquake. Please send thoughts, prayers and (if possible) money to help the relief efforts.


A week ago, I did a little complaining about the Cal basketball team. After Thursday night's 93-88 victory at Washington State, with senior point guard Jerome Randall pumping in a career-high 39 points, Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears are alone in first place in the Pac-10. Joanne Boyle's raw but supremely talented women's team, meanwhile, finally won a conference game in its fourth try, defeating the Cougars by a 60-43 score. The Bears' third-ranked women's tennis team, coming off two consecutive NCAA championship match appearances, opened its season with a 7-0 victory over Hawaii in paradise. Cal's second-ranked men's gymnastics team opens its season Friday night with a dual meet against top-ranked Stanford at Haas Pavilion, where hopefully the Cardinal will be reminded that, as usual, we have The Axe. Finally, congratulations to a pair of sensational soccer forwards – Alex Morgan, who earned a spot at U.S. women's national team training camp in advance of the Algarve Cup in Portugal, and Andrew Wiedeman, who was selected in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday by FC Dallas.


GQ the dirtiest player


Ooooohhhhh yeeaaaahhhhhhhhhh! In a glorious twist to a miserable season, one that my Y! Sports colleague described as "the dog's bollocks," Reading pulled out a shocking, 2-1 victory at Liverpool on Wednesday to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup. After forcing a replay with a 1-1 draw at Madejski Stadium, the Royals rolled into Anfield, where they had never won, and rocked the Reds from the start. Despite falling behind just before halftime on an own-goal, with the ball awkwardly deflecting off Reading defender Ryan Bertrand and into the net, the Royals kept up the pressure throughout the game. Twenty minutes after the break Reading winger Jobi McAnuff took the ball in his own half and embarked upon a sizzling, 65-yard run, slaloming five Liverpool players in the process. He pushed his shot inches wide, depriving the Royals of what one British announcer said would have been one of the great FA Cup goals of all time. When all appeared lost, the Royals finally equalized in the waning seconds of second-half stoppage time after super sub Shane Long was fouled in the box. Needing to convert the penalty kick to force 30 minutes of extra time, 20-year-old Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson calmly slotted home.

Ten minutes after the break it was time for more Ice: right back Brynjar Gunnarsson nutmegged Liverpool defender Emiliano Insua before launching a gorgeous cross into the box, causing some of the fans at Anfield to jump to their feet in disgust even before Long headed home. After holding off the Reds for 20 minutes, Reading – a 14-1 long shot going in, according to Bet365, the club's official bookmaker (yes, official bookmaker … can you imagine that in the States?) – had pulled off what some supporters are calling the best single result in club history. With a Jan. 23 match against Burnley at Madejski next up, the Royals hope to continue their unlikely assault on the Cup – but first it's back to the reality of what has been a miserable Football League Championship season. Still 21st in the 24-team table, and only two points clear of the relegation line, Reading hits the road to face second-place Nottingham Forest on Saturday. If interim manager Brian McDermott, who took over less than a month ago, can build on the momentum from the Liverpool triumph, he might end up getting tabbed as Brendan Rodgers' successor after all.


Sixteen months ago, as Lane Kiffin served out his final days as the Raiders' coach, I summoned the ethereal sounds of Jane's Addiction to detail his impending demise. Two jobs later, Kiffin is now sitting metaphorically atop the Trojan horse and getting ready to put his inimitable stamp on Heritage Hall – and I've once again got Jane on the brain. So let's go back to the '80s for this cheesy little ditty by Jon Astley, with USC athletic director Mike Garrett providing the vocals in that sweet pilot's outfit. To the tune of "Jane's Getting Serious":

Pete Carroll skipped out
Headed up to Seatown
I tried to reach out
But seven guys turned me down
Thought about Mariucci
Millen said, "He's a clown"

Called down to Knoxville
Found him on his party bus
Asked him would he jump ship
And break Tennessee's trust
Those violations?
He is a coach made for us

Come around eleven
And it's time to get home
They just won't leave us alone
But he's back in my life
Just like a Reggie Bush(notes) loan
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
Lane's getting serious (I got to do something bout)
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
And I could get serious too

Kiffin seduces me
I'm overcome with desire
It was so cute how
He threw down with Urban Meyer
I think "It's Time" y'all

Some come around November
When we're at the Rose Bowl
Neuheisel may sneer
But he'll be under control
Cause I am looking at Lane
And he is making me whole
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
Lane's getting serious (I got to do something bout)
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
And I could get serious too

So I'm pretending I'm not
Caught in between
The devil and death penalty
And I cannot believe
That I would ever admit
That I'm beginning to take Lane seriously

I think of him recruiting
Charming kids in their homes
All dressed up
And talkin' real low
The same old song
I really should have known
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
Lane's getting serious (I got to do something bout)
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
And I could get serious too
I could get so serious (Lane)
Lane's getting serious (I got to do something bout)
Lane's getting serious (Lane)
And I could get serious too

Lane's getting serious (Lane)
Lane's getting serious …