Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen will be missing from Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Coach Ron Rivera has made the decision to keep him out, after he broke a small bone in his right foot. Allen is a key cog to getting pressure on the Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer.
Allen injured himself last week in the Divisional Round game against the Seattle Seahawks. Allen practiced on a limited basis Thursday, but Rivera told him on Friday morning he wouldn’t play against the Cardinals. Second-year defensive end Kony Ealy will get the start opposite Charles Johnson.
Allen believes he’s healthy enough to be effective against Arizona, the NFL’s top-ranked offense. He said there was no danger of further damaging the foot and that he was convinced he could have played. He was visibly upset and shaken over the decision, while discussing the situation, per ESPN.
“Not happy, plain and simple. I am ready to rock. It’s a coach’s decision. Got to live with it.”
The NFL’s active career sack leader (136) wasn’t able to participate in Friday’s practice. It was difficult for him to maneuver and have good balance in the icy and snowy conditions on the field. Rivera told Allen of the decision, after practice.
“He’s very disappointed,” Rivera explained. “He took it hard. We’ve got to look at this going forward as far as what’s best for the team is concerned on Sunday.”
Rivera also explained that Allen would be ready to go in the Super Bowl, if the Panthers defeat the Cardinals. The decision wasn’t an easy one. He realizes that the title game would be a special accomplishment for 12 seasons of playing.
If he had been healthy enough to start, this Sunday would’ve been the second NFC title game of Allen’s career. Allen was on the 2009 Vikings team that advanced to the NFC Championship Game with Brett Favre, before losing to the Saints in overtime.
“The thing I have to look at is the realism of it, the type of injury it is,” Rivera said. “There’s a tremendous amount of desire. Let’s be honest. That’s who the young man is. He’s such a competitor, such a warrior.”
Allen was acquired by Carolina in a trade with Chicago after left end Charles Johnson was injured in Week 3. Allen had only two sacks this season but played arguably his best game last week against Seattle. He played the final two series against the Seahawks with the injury and was confident he would be fine.
For his part, Rivera didn’t sugarcoat the situation. He knew Allen wasn’t happy about the decision to keep him on the sideline.
As for Allen, he’s just hoping the Panthers can win so he can play in a Super Bowl for the first time in his 12-year career.
At this point, Allen’s just hoping the Panthers can advance to the big dance. That would be a first in his career.
If left up to Allen, he would be getting ready to start. The competitor in him is anxious to get on the field. He also knows that he has to do what’s best for the team and respect what coach Rivera deems is right. If that means stepping aside and missing the NFC Championship, he’s on board with the decision. But, he’s just not happy.
“Hopefully, we can get this one knocked out and be ready for the Super Bowl,” Allen said. “I’ll support my guys and be the best cheerleader I can be this week.”
If the Panthers continue to play at the level they have all season, Allen may be doing more than cheering. He may be getting ready for Super Bowl 50.
[Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]