Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen has waited 12 years to play in a Super Bowl.
But he won’t have a hand in whether the Panthers make it this year.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’s holding Allen out of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against Arizona after Allen broke a small bone in his right foot last week against Seattle.
Rivera said it was a tough decision, but one he made with the team’s best interest in mind.
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Allen was not pleased with Rivera’s decision.
“Not happy, plain and simple. I’m ready to rock,” Allen said. “Coach’s decision, gotta live with it.”
Allen practiced on a limited basis Thursday, but Rivera told him Friday morning he wouldn’t play against the Cardinals. Second-year defensive end Kony Ealy will get the start opposite Charles Johnson. Ryan Delaire will be active.
Allen believes he’s healthy enough that he would have been effective against Arizona, the NFL’s top-ranked offense.
“A hundred percent. But it’s coach’s call,” he said. “I respect coach, so I’ve got to respect his decision. It is what it is.”
Running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (foot) and running back Fozzy Whittaker (ankle) were full participants in Friday’s practice and are probable for the game.
Rivera said earlier in the week he was concerned about the possibility that the Panthers would be shorthanded with their pass-rushers if Allen reinjured the foot or was ineffective.
Allen said he didn’t think there was a risk of further injury.
“Broke is broke. That’s all questions for the doc. I just know I do what I do, get ready, coach’s decision,” Allen said. “He made a decision. I’ve got to live with it and support my guys and be the best cheerleader I can be this week.”
Allen is confident he can play in the Super Bowl if the Panthers beat Arizona.
“I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “So hopefully we can get this one knocked out and be ready for the Super Bowl.”
Rivera said he hopes Allen gets another chance to play this season.
“He’s very disappointed. He took it very hard,” Rivera said. “But we have to look at this going forward at what’s best for us as far as the team’s concerned on Sunday night. And if there is the possibility (of playing in the Super Bowl), he gets another week of rest.”
Allen, 33, joined the Panthers on Sept. 29 in a trade with Chicago after defensive end Charles Johnson reinjured his hamstring. Allen is tied with former Panther Julius Peppers as the active sacks leader with 136, and had one in back-to-back games against Indianapolis and Green Bay.
Those were the only two sacks for Allen in 12 games with the Panthers. But he was effective against Seattle, finishing with seven pressures against Russell Wilson (three hits and four hurries) despite playing the last two series with the broken bone in his foot.
Rivera said there was never question about Allen’s desire to play. But the fifth-year coach said he had to trust his gut in keeping Allen out.
“He’s such a competitor, such a warrior. I didn’t do this lightly,” Rivera said. “I really thought about it from the time I found out the injury after the game to the last couple of days, and tried to weigh all the information I got and I went from there.”
As he put a fitted plastic support under his foot and pulled on his sock and shoe Friday at his locker, Allen reiterated that he respects Rivera even if they agreed to disagree on his playing status this week.
“Coach has different things to worry about. He has the whole team to worry about, right? So I understand his position 100 percent,” Allen said. “I respect Coach Rivera. I love Coach Rivera. I don’t have to agree with the decision.”