It is much easier for Nate Allen, we all agree, to take that step forward with two healthy legs. That wasn't possible in 2011, no matter how much Allen wanted to think otherwise. A torn patellar tendon injury in 2010 lingered substantially into last year and while Allen was on the field and showed signs of excellence, he wasn't all there physically.
Now he is. Now Allen is whole. He is a seasoned professional, ingrained in the Juan Castillo defense, and prepared to play his best football in 2012.
"I am not going to make any excuses about the injury or my play. It was tough to gauge where I was last year physically until I went out and played in the games and saw where I actually was," said Allen. "At that point, you're just trying to get better every week and prepare for your next opponent. I didn't think about the knee. I just went out and played the best I could play.
"I look back at it now and would probably say that it wasn't 100, 100 percent. It was good enough to go, though. Now, I'm in a whole different place. I feel great."
The Eagles need Allen to feel great and they need him to play that way, too. Safety has been a focal point for years now as the Eagles look for a stable twosome to carry the back end of the defense. Allen and Kurt Coleman started throughout the Organized Team Activities and will get the nod when the team's mandatory mini-camp begins on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
Allen says he feels "100 times better" than he did at this time last year. He has his burst back. He has all the strength in his knee and because he hasn't had to focus on rehabbing his knee in the offseason, he's been able to work his entire body since the 2011 season end. The results are impressive: Allen is stronger, has added a few pounds and moving beautifully and confidently on the field.
"I didn't have my burst, my explosion and just as important, my mental confidence," said Allen. "When you have an injury like that, it takes time to get back your confidence in your knee. You kind of take more steps than usual, because you're thinking, 'Don't do the same thing that got you hurt.' Coming back from an injury like that is tough physically and mentally. The doctors did a great job and I knew that, but it also took time to get back to where I am now."
Allen stays focused on his job, remarkably so in the age of Twitter and self promotion. He doesn't Tweet. He doesn't read the coverage of the Eagles. He pays as little attention as possible on the attention being paid to him, instead focusing on his task of becoming an outstanding NFL safety.
"I try to stay out of the media stuff," said Allen. "I understand those guys have a job to do, but I just worry about the job I have to do. I figure that with Twitter, anything that goes out to Twitter and then to the media is usually something bad, so that's why I try to stay out of it."
Allen has been a regular since '11 ended at the NovaCare Complex. He is doing everything possible to play his best football in the season ahead -- watching a ton of film, working on his conditioning and his strength and making sure he is focused.
"I know I have a lot of eyes on me, but I don't worry about it," said Allen. "I just worry about doing my job and making as many plays as I can."
The Eagles selected Allen in the second round of the 2010 draft, using a pick they acquired from Washington in the Donovan McNabb trade to select Allen. He became an immediate starter and enjoyed a fine rookie season until tearing up his knee in that road game at the Giants that turned into history: As the Eagles roared back from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit, Allen was in the athletic training room receiving treatment for the knee injury he suffered in the first half of the game.
"I'm over it," he says now. "I've moved on. We have a new season ahead of us. I love what we're doing here. The chemistry is great. The defense is flying around, getting to the football. It's all good. I'm excited about where I am and where the team is."