Alabama rookies entering the NFL often refer to the ease of their transition from the Crimson Tide to the professional game. The complexity of the concepts and schemes the NFL has found is reflected in the Alabama program, and the collegiate practices are much more consistently physically demanding than the CBA-led workouts in the pros.
But Washington commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said he has an impediment he’s been dealing with since moving from an All-American to a Pro Bowler.
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In four seasons with the Crimson Tide, Allen played for three SEC champions and one CFP national champion with teams making the national title game twice and the national semifinals three times. The Tide compiled a 51-6 record during Allen’s career.
Since Allen joined Washington as the 17th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Commanders have amassed a 37-55 record and earned a postseason pick, and Allen has seen his teammates respond to that record in a variety of ways.
“I think the hardest part for me was coming into the league from Alabama because you just didn’t have fun in Alabama if you didn’t win,” Allen said. “The boys in Alabama aren’t having fun right now. Your season is over, and that’s just the unfortunate part of things. It’s national championship or bust. And if you win, move on to the next one.
“When I first came into the league it was quite difficult for me to let go a little bit after being under coach (Nick) Saban for four years and I just had to learn that guys celebrate in different ways. You know what I mean? Some guys are more open minded than me. And you know, that’s okay. At the end of the day, that matters as long as you show up to play week after week.”
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Allen has been on a fun run lately. The Commanders have won five of their last six games, and among defensive centerbacks in the NFL, Allen ranks first in tackles for loss, second in solo tackles and quarterback hits, and fourth in sacks. With 14 tackles for loss, Allen ranks third among all defensive players in 2022.
“I’m definitely having fun,” Allen said. “But I really only have fun when I win. To be honest. I mean I’m here to win. And if I don’t win, that doesn’t mean I’m not having fun, but as coach Saban would say, I hate losing more than I hate winning.”
Allen said he’s trying to enjoy his NFL journey aside from his focus on Sunday’s result.
“We’re just trying to have fun,” Allen said. “Football is a very tough game. It is very stressful. People see it on Sundays, but they really don’t see what’s in it Monday through Saturday. And if the average fan really knew what football is like, a lot of people would be put off because it’s an uncomfortable game and it’s physical and it’s tough and it’s emotionally draining, so when you succeed because it’s very difficult, Making Games In the NFL, you have to enjoy each other. …
“I feel like you get caught up in all the big things too often but really just enjoy being together. When you talk to guys who are out of the league, what they miss the most is the locker room. I’m really trying to take that in and not, although I know I’m going to miss it, I really try not to overlook the little things and that’s just fun with the guys.”
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The commanders will be looking to take their record to 7-5 on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons visit FedEx Field for a noon CST kickoff.
“We have a great (locker) room,” Allen said. “I’m really, really blessed and excited to be able to play with them because they make my job so much easier.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.