MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -With a Paul Bunyanesque beard and a gregarious personality just as large as the mythical lumberjack said to have once roamed these parts, Jared Allen is feeling right at home in Minnesota.
The defensive end has traded Chiefs red for Vikings purple, and a whole lot of green, and the NFL's reigning sacks champ has been giddy in his first training camp at Minnesota State, Mankato.
``There is definitely a new level of excitement just because I am at a place where I really want to be,'' Allen said.
That's more than can be said for the end of last season, when Allen clashed with Kansas City GM Carl Peterson and practically begged the Chiefs to trade him.
His wish came true in April, when the Vikings sent the Chiefs a first-rounder, two thirds and agreed to swap sixth-round picks so they could put one of the league's premier pass rushers next to the best tackle tandem in the game.
``What had to be done, had to be done,'' Allen said Wednesday, a day before his new team heads to River Falls, Wis., for a joint practice with his old team. ``I don't agree with the way he handled it. He doesn't agree with the way I handled it. But I'm not going to sit here, I'm not going to hold a grudge over it or anything. But I've got nothing to talk to the guy about.''
Allen spent his first four years with the Chiefs and his 43 sacks in that span is second in the league only to Jason Taylor's 46.
``It doesn't bother me. I have a lot of buddies there still,'' Allen said. ``Just another stepping stone at camp. That's over and done with in my book. I'm a Minnesota Viking. I couldn't be happier and my focus is on this organization.''
Getting out of rebuilding Kansas City and playing next to Pat and Kevin Williams on a team considered a contender in the NFC weren't the only perks in the deal for Allen. He signed a six-year contract that could pay him as much as $74 million and includes $31 million in guaranteed money, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
``I'm a happier guy now,'' said Allen, his omnipresent smile hidden by a bushy beard he vowed not to shave until camp is over. ``I'm in a better organization. I'm in a better spot. Nothing against Kansas City as an organization, I just think my fit's better in Minnesota.''
Some said the Vikings took a risk by giving all that money to Allen, who was suspended for two games last season after two DWI convictions. But Allen says he has given up drinking, and Peterson's assessment of the 26-year-old as ``a young man at risk'' is what fractured the relationship beyond repair.
``He knew what I went through to get to where I'm at today,'' Allen said. ``To me it just shows the true character of people. I've always been up front and honest with everybody and I didn't feel the same was returned to me. That's wherein lies the problem.''
Giving up alcohol appears to be about the only change in his thrill-seeking, wild boar-hunting, joke-cracking lifestyle.
``I'm not good-looking, so they didn't bring me here to be the model of the franchise,'' Allen cracked when asked what his role would be on his new team. ``They brought me here to produce and produce wins, and to work with my teammates to make myself better and make them better.''
The Vikings have ranked near the bottom of the league in pass defense for most of this decade in large part because they have been unable to find an edge rusher to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
``He's a guy that led the league in sacks, so that's what we're looking for him to do here, come off the edge and continue to get sacks,'' Kevin Williams said. ``And we're going to continue to stop the run.''
That hasn't been a problem lately for the Vikings, who allowed just 985 yards rushing last season, the second fewest since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Now it appears they have some sizzle on the edge to go with the steak in the middle, which could be a potent combination if things go according to plan.
``We couldn't have got a better, higher-paid guy in here,'' defensive end Ray Edwards quipped, a telling jab that shows just how quickly Allen has become one of the guys here. ``He's definitely a great guy, though. I definitely like having him around. He keeps me laughing.''
Allen was just as popular with the Chiefs, who look forward to seeing him again.
``The players on this team have a lot of respect and love for Jared,'' Kansas City Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters said. ``We wanted the best for him. We thought he deserved the contract he got. We all realize it's a business and sometimes people move on. We're proud of Jared and happy for him.''
If he crosses paths with Peterson on Thursday, ``I'll just walk away,'' Allen said. Other than the general manager, Allen can't wait to see coach Herm Edwards and the rest of his buddies.
``I've got a lot of good friends over there, all the coaching staff,'' Allen said. ``I've never had hard feelings against them. Like I say, it was a business decision. They did what they felt they had to do and I did what I felt I had to do and I think I got the better deal out of it.''
AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker in River Falls, Wis., contributed to this story.

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