KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- He ran with the bulls in Pamplona and went after wild boar with a knife.
List the most dangerous things Jared Allen has done in 2007, and crashing into 300-pound tackles and guards ranks no higher than third.
"Life's too short to put anything on hold," Kansas City's thrill-seeking defensive end says with a big grin. "I go out and enjoy life."
For opposing quarterbacks, he's making life miserable. His eight sacks are tied for the league lead and seem to signal like oncoming headlights that in his fourth season, the 6-foot-6, 275-pounder is ready to take his place among the NFL's elite defensive linemen.
Impressively, those eight sacks for 61 yards came in only five games. The New York Giants' Osi Umenyiora also has eight, but he's played seven games.
Even more impressively, Allen, a fun-loving party animal since his college days at Idaho State, is sober. Hasn't had a drop, say close friends, since a second DUI conviction got him in trouble 13 months ago with the law and the league.
"He cold-turkeyed it," said Chiefs fullback Boomer Grigsby, Allen's close friend. "He knows he has a chance to be the best defensive end in football. Maybe he already is. All he needs to do is take care of himself."
In addition to his sacks, Allen has forced two fumbles and utilized his long wingspan to knock down four passes while energizing a drastically improved defense that is, without question, the major reason the Chiefs (4-3) enter their bye week as the surprise leaders in the AFC West.
"Jared is probably one of the most underrated defensive ends in the league," Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer said.
As a penalty for his DUI convictions, Allen restlessly sat out the first two games this season under suspension. Then, like a taut spring uncoiling, he came back like a runaway train, recording eight tackles, two sacks, two pass deflections, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in a 13-10 victory over Minnesota that may have sparked a season-saving turnaround for Kansas City.
It was a virtuoso defensive performance the likes of which the Chiefs haven't seen since the heyday of former Pro Bowlers Neil Smith and the late Derrick Thomas a decade ago.
Without Jared Allen, the Chiefs were 0-2. With him, they're 4-1.
"It isn't just the pass rush," said defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. "His play has also been outstanding against the run. He's finally gotten to the point where he's not always worried about the sack. He used to be undisciplined. But now he's playing great in all phases."
He's also climbing the team career sacks list and could one day challenge the record of Thomas, who died of injuries in a car crash in 2000 and had 126 1/2.
Studying tapes of old games, Allen has marveled at how Thomas would get around blockers.
"He taught me stuff from the grave," Allen said. "I'd say, 'How is he getting off the ball that fast?"'
His commitment to sobriety was the reason commissioner Roger Goodell cut his four-game suspension in half.
"I haven't had a drink since last September," Allen says almost matter-of-factly.
Cunningham has no doubt.
"I see it in his eyes," he said. "He has clear eyes. I don't think he is drinking, and I don't think there's any question that's helped him be a better player."
Friends were not amazed that he quit drinking, but they are astonished at the effect sobriety has had on his personality.
"It's had none -- none at all," said Grigsby. "Imagine this, it's three o'clock in the morning in Las Vegas and you're at this great party. There's women everywhere. There's booze, famous people. Everybody in the place is drinking except one guy. And he's on the dance floor having the best time of anybody. That was Jared. I saw it. I was there.
"He can have a great time and be himself completely around people who are all drinking. And he's still the life of the party. Once he realized he didn't need it, the rest was easy."
Allen's not a man to let anything stand in the way of a good time. A lifelong rodeo fan, he always wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona. So a few weeks before training camp, he hopped on a plane bound for Spain.
"It was just about the scariest thing I've ever done," he said. "I was about three feet away from the bulls. I must have been the only person on the street that day who was sober."
Hunting a 200-pound wild boar with a knife was also "pretty intense," he recalled.
"That's the only true way to hunt. Anybody can hang back and shoot something from 300 yards away."
And the meat?
"We ate it. I kill something, I eat it."
Doesn't he worry about career-ending, or even life-threatening injuries when he's doing his daredevil stunts?
"You can get hurt just walking down the street," he said. "I've done some fun, crazy stuff. But I've always come out all right.
"I live life just as it comes, man."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press