But a year ago at this time, all the talk was about Jared Allen. At that time, the Vikings' most glaring need was at defensive end in the weeks leading up to the draft. It seemed all but certain that the Vikings would address the position early and could potentially have to move up a few spots to lock one down in the event of a position run – which eventually materialized.
In the week leading up to the draft, the Vikings made the blockbuster deal – trading their first-round and two third-round picks to the Kansas City Chiefs to get Allen. He was promptly signed to a long-term contract and the rest was history. Draft weekend was relatively uneventful, but Allen was the man in the spotlight.
A year later, Allen said it feels very different and the anxiety he felt about being under the constant glare of the media spotlight as a potential defensive savior has eased back considerably. When asked how felt a year later, he was pretty succinct.
"Comfortable," Allen said. "It's really cool when I got see the excitement to continue to build and make good on some of the promises we made. Our goal was to win a division championship and we were able to do it. It's good to be in a situation where they didn't have to make any major moves. We're just trying to maintain and push forward a little bit."
Allen said he's seen the moves that the Bears, Packers and Lions have all made and realizes that keeping the NFC North crown won't be easy. All of their three divisional rivals would appear to have improved themselves in the offseason, so having the target on their back as division champs will be something they will have to live up to. Allen said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's going to be a challenge, but you don't want it easy," Allen said. "Everybody is going to make moves. Everybody is trying to win a championship. Eventually, you've got to beat everybody to get there."
There were some concerns raised when it learned Allen wouldn't be attending the team's offseason workout program – opting instead to work out at his home in Arizona. Rehabbing both a knee injury and a severe shoulder sprain, Allen said he's feeling as good as he ever has.
"I feel amazing right now," Allen said. "I got a trainer to get my shoulder back. I've got a gym in the house. I'm working out every day. I'm ready. I'm excited. I can't wait to get on with the season."
Allen has embarked on a very busy offseason that has included a USO tour in Iraq and a trip through Africa. He said it has been a tremendous experience to recharge his batteries and was especially moved by his visits with our troops overseas, who he says are the real heroes that should be acknowledged for their commitment to their country.
"It was cool because my little brother graduates from bootcamp (May) 7," Allen said. "My grandfather was a veteran in Korea and Vietnam. I just wanted to thank those guys firsthand. To see what (the troops) go through firsthand was a lot – really moving and really humbling."
With the first veteran minicamp right around the corner, Allen said that will mark his official beginning to the 2009 season and he's ready to get it here as quickly as possible. Unlike a year ago when everything and everyone was still new to him, Allen said the second time around could be even more impressive than his debut season.
"I've got a better feel for everyone I'm playing with and they've got a better feel for me," Allen said. "There's no feeling-out period. We're going to hit the ground running and go for it."