Jared Allen can’t wait for a real game. That’s the only way he’ll know for sure if he’s getting the hang of playing outside linebacker, right?
‘‘I want a game so training camp will be over,’’ Allen said. ‘‘That’s [the same for] everybody. After 12 years, this still [stinks].’’
Be that as it may, the early returns on Allen’s transition from end to outside linebacker in the Bears’ 3-4 defense have been more positive than negative, and the effusive
Allen is pumped up about the experience. And if you ever have seen him play, you know a pumped-up Allen is a good Allen.
It’s too early to tell whether Allen will be an impact player in coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme, but the best early sign is that his heart is in it. That’s almost half the battle for a player in his situation — 33 years old and playing a new position in a new defense for a new coaching staff.
‘‘I’m absolutely having fun, 100 percent,’’ Allen said. ‘‘It’s been a blast. The energy around here is high. It’s competitive. It’s uplifting. There’s a sense of professionalism . . . like, come to work, do your job. We get back, relax, hang around with the guys, get to know some people.
‘‘I don’t know how to
explain it. It’s the environment. All I can ask for is a place where I can come to work and try to be the best at what I do. And then you let the chips fall where they do.’’
For what it’s worth, it looked as though Allen was getting the hang of his new position in the Bears’ limited scrimmage Saturday at Soldier Field. He even was credited with a ‘‘sack’’ of Jimmy Clausen, though quarterbacks weren’t allowed to be hit.
And Fangio, who isn’t prone to gushing about anything or anybody, indicated Allen was making progress in the most important facet of the transition.
‘‘It’s been going well,’’
Fangio said when asked about Allen. ‘‘He’s doing well mentally for a guy that’s never played there. He’s picked up stuff [well] mentally. He
‘‘He just has to learn and feel and be more exposed to route combinations [and], when he’s dropping, exactly how to play them.’’
It’s no secret that Allen’s ability in coverage will be the key to making him more than a third-and-long pass rusher in Fangio’s defense. That’s where Allen said he was making the most progress.
‘‘Drops are way better than they were the first day,’’ he said, then quickly added:
‘‘At some point, you can’t let it be too big. It’s still football. I’m just lining up in a slightly different spot, and I’ve got some slightly different
‘‘You still have to understand the game of football. You still have to understand you’re either going to get a run block [or] pass block, and your key is going to tell you [that] you have to do something. So it’s how fast you recognize that key, how fast you react to that key and get in the right areas, and then let your ability take over.’’
Ultimately, the games will tell the tale. For now, though, Allen feels certain he can do this job.
‘‘If I was going to practice and it just wasn’t it for me, I’d go tell the coaches, ‘This ain’t for me,’ ’’ Allen said. ‘‘I’m
going to put everything I’ve got toward it. I know I can play. I know I can play at a high level, and that’s what I’m excited about.’’