EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Jared Allen was a 19-year-old college football player at Idaho State in 2001 when Michael Strahan set the NFL record for sacks in a season. Or, more specifically, when Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre "slipped" and Strahan fell on him to bring his season total to 22.5 sacks in the final game of the season.
Allen wasn't watching then, but admits he has seen the replay several times. Now four sacks from matching Strahan's record, Allen would have no problem accepting a similar gift Sunday when the Vikings close out their regular season against the Chicago Bears.
Speaking Wednesday to reporters, Allen said the record is "absolutely within reach" and said he prayed for help this week. And then he turned to face several cameras as if he were addressing Bears quarterback Josh McCown directly.
"There is never an asterisk," Allen said. "A sack is a sack is a sack. I don't care how you get it. I'm just hoping to get some of that favorable treatment. You know what I'm saying? Hey, McCown: Feel free to trip and fall. I'll touch you. It doesn't have to be painful."
Sacks are admittedly fickle statistics that reward players equally when they touch a fallen quarterback or when they beat a double team and plant him into the ground. Allen once got credit for a sack when he was the nearest defender to then-Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who ran out of the end zone for a safety. And Allen admitted Wednesday that he has looked back on this season and counted several instances where he earned a sack but wasn't credited with one for various scoring reasons.
That's why nothing should be ruled out for Sunday's game. Allen's career-high for sacks in a game is 4.5, set in 2009 against the Green Bay Packers.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm going to go out there and give it my best. I'm going to give Strahan a run for his money and, if it happens, thank God it happened. If it doesn't, it's not going to take away from my season."
Meanwhile, one thing Allen is certain of is that he wants no part of reports that the Vikings might move to the 3-4 defense next season. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com made a case for it earlier this month, a change that would force Allen to move positions and almost certainly diminish his effectiveness.
For that reason, I have a hard time believing the Vikings will make that move in 2012. Allen was pretty blunt about it, saying: "That's not for me." He said that he's "going to end my career at defensive end" and suggested a move to outside linebacker would be more appropriate for a younger player.
"I think if I was halfway through my career, then that's something different," Allen said. "Maybe they can just leave me out at defensive end. That's where I kind of made my mark. I like where I play. I like that art form. There are some great matchup advantage to the 3-4. You take a guy like DeMarcus Ware [of the Dallas Cowboys], who could easily play with his hand down on every snap. And you put him in a position to be matched up with a running back one-on-one. Some great things happen. I'm just more of a traditionalist."