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With off-field issues behind him, Allen now trouble for opposing QBs

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen used to attack life the way he attacked opposing quarterbacks -- recklessly, with little regard for the consequences of his actions. Playing that way on the field rewards you with money, endorsements and fame.

Playing that way off the field brings legal trouble, public embarrassment and suspensions.

Allen found out the hard way when he was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season (the suspension was later trimmed to two games) for being twice charged for driving while intoxicated. Allen, 25, faced a difficult decision: Keep carrying on with his hard-partying, Delta-house ways or make a serious lifestyle change.

Allen was not about to become another NFL cliché, or a cautionary tale of what went wrong. Instead, he made the decision to dedicate himself to football.

"I had to change my priorities," Allen said after a sun-soaked practice at Kapolei High School. "To me it was as growing up process. I couldn't keep going out like I was in college. To take my game to the next level I had to make some sacrifices. That (drinking) was the one thing I felt like I could sacrifice."

Allen quit drinking and tweaked his diet. No salads, though. Allen grew up on a ranch in Northern California and still has aspirations to be in the rodeo when he is finished with football. So salads don't factor into the menu. He also made a big change in hairstyle, opting for a mullet, which feeds him his strength like Sampson.

The changes were immediately noticeable. And not just the hair flapping out of his helmet.

Allen registered a career-high 15.5 sacks in only 14 games and almost single-handedly won a few games for the Chiefs with his defense, to earn his first Pro Bowl invitation --the first for a Chiefs defensive player in five years. He even shaved notches into his prized mullet for each sack that he earned.

Because even without alcohol, Allen found out that he was still the same fun-loving guy that he was while drinking. And society noticed, too. Allen laughs at the fact that when he got rowdy while drinking, he was out of control. Now his out-going personality makes him just a fun-loving guy. Heck, he is still opening a sports bar in Kansas City -- Jared Allen Sports Arena & Grill -- like he's a real-life version of the popular TV character Sam Malone.

The sobriety allowed Allen to save some money and shed the beer belly -- something very important when you are sharing a hotel in Hawaii with some of the most toned athletes in the world. He's also one of the few players showing up to practice without a hangover. Allen is in bed by 9:30 while most of his teammates are out at the hotel lounge.

The sobriety is also giving Allen a chance to appreciate what he has earned this season and to cherish what an honor it is to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

"It is extremely special," Allen said. "I could have given up on it or I could have worked hard. And I chose to work hard. It was special that, even missing two games, I was able to see all of that hard work pay off. This, to me, was a culmination of three years of hard work where you keep growing as a player...It is nice to get that pat on the back and respect from your peers. That's what I'm out here playing for, the respect of my peers."

Now Allen is looking for a little respect from the Chiefs, who have yet to offer him a contract. It has been reported that Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson plans to put the franchise tag on Allen, possibly scared off by his troubled past.

Allen admits that he sees the franchise tag coming. And if the Chiefs do, they will likely see him going.

"If I play under the franchise tag, this will be my last year with the Chiefs," Allen said. "I would like to be a part of (the team) but there is a business aspect of this, too, and I will need to do the things that I will need to do."

And if that happens, that might be enough to drive Chiefs fans to drink.

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