CHARLOTTE – So much about Carolina is unfamiliar to Jared Allen. New city, new locker, new coaches, new teammates.
But in the midst of so much change, Allen is actually returning to his comfort zone on the field, and it's the reason trade talks with the Chicago Bears began in the first place.
Allen was playing outside linebacker in the Bears' newly installed 3-4 defense. It wasn't a fit for a prolific pass rusher who had registered a 134 career sacks – the most among active players – as a 4-3 defensive end.
"I'm not a stand up 3-4 guy. I gave it the old college try," Allen said. "At the end of the day, we were able to help each other. They felt they could get some value for me."
A trade was best for everyone involved.
On Monday, Allen was getting ready to go into a meeting with his Bears teammates, who are still in search of their first win. Then, he got word he was on the move.
On Wednesday, he was on the practice field with the Panthers, who are looking to claim their fourth consecutive victory to start the year.
"It's a bit surreal," Allen said.
The Panthers, in need of some immediate help on the defensive line with Charles Johnson placed on injured reserve/designated to return, traded a conditional 2016 draft pick for Allen. He will perform at right defensive end, his natural position.
"I understand the game with my hand in the ground," Allen explained. "I feel like I can play faster, stronger and have better leverage. This is where my heart and my home is – in a 4-3 defense."
And this 4-3 defense happens to be pretty good. A top-10 unit for three years running, Carolina's attacking, swarming style greatly intrigued Allen.
"I was tickled pink to be (traded) here," he said. "If you are a D-lineman or a defensive player, this is a very attractive place to be. They play hard defense, they play fast, they play physical and they get after the quarterback.
"Guys seem to thrive here."
Will Allen thrive here? There is no doubt in Allen's mind, but he understands why there might be some doubt from onlookers.
The five-time Pro Bowler is 33 years old, and he's coming off a season in which he battled pneumonia and recorded a career-low 5.5 sacks.
"Heck, last year when I played (against the Panthers) I was 239 (pounds)," said Allen, now back to his typical weight of 255 pounds. "I fought that all year. I own it though. When I'm on the field, I want to be the best.
"Last year was rough. Five-and-a-half sacks is below my standard. I know everything is based on sacks, and I've set a high bar for myself."
Allen set that bar as high as he did by playing with relentless effort and enthusiasm. And he's never been afraid to show off his colorful personality.
Now in his 12th season, that hasn't changed, and that burning desire to win a Super Bowl keeps him going.
"I told the guys I am going to come to work every single day and give it my best," Allen said. "I'm going to line up, have fun and hit people in the mouth."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game versus the Buccaneers.