TAMPA — Plenty has changed since LT Donald Penn began his career as an undrafted free agent on the Vikings' practice squad five years ago.
But Penn, coming off his first Pro Bowl season, said one thing remains the same as he prepares for his first game in Minnesota since the Bucs signed him in October 2006.
"I still have a chip on my shoulder," he said.
Penn also will have a large responsibility on his shoulders, charged with slowing down Vikings three-time Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen. Since entering the league in 2004, Allen has 83½ sacks, tops among all players during that time frame.
"He's a game-changer," Penn said. "I've just got to try to play as well as the last time I played him."
In that matchup on Nov. 16, 2008, Penn held Allen sackless in a 19-13 Tampa Bay victory.
"It was a physical battle," said Allen, who had a half-sack in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. "I was fresh off a busted-up shoulder, and I felt it. I'll never forget that game."
While Penn said he's a "totally different player" and more technically sound than he was then, he pointed out Allen is a very smart player, one who studies his opponents meticulously. And with the crazed crowd under the dome at Mall of America Field, the noise can give Allen an advantage, meaning Penn will have to anticipate the silent count.
"I really do think it plays a big, big factor in Allen's game at home because it's hard for a tackle to hear," Penn said. "If a tackle gets off a second late, a second means a lot in this league."
Allen won't have his line partner, DT Kevin Williams (49½ career sacks), who will be serving the final game of his two-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. But Allen is excited for the challenge of facing Penn. "It should be fun. He's a good player," Allen said. "Hopefully, we can get a few one-on-one looks and have some fun with it."
TALKING TALIB: CB Aqib Talib, who on Sunday played his first game since Dec. 5, said he came out of it feeling good physically after battling hamstring issues all preseason.
"I'm good. I'm 100 percent," Talib said.
As for Talib's anticipated matchup with Lions WR Calvin Johnson, which Talib had said he couldn't wait for, he knew things could have gone better in the Bucs' 27-20 loss.
Johnson racked up six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns, both on balls that were just over the outstretched hands of Talib. On the first one, S Sean Jones said he should have been on the backside helping out.
Talib did have an interception return for a touchdown.
"It went all right," he said. "I'm going up against one of the best receivers in the league. I got my seven (points). He got 14. You never want to give that up, but it's last week. We're focused on Minnesota."
HIGH PRAISE: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he sees a lot of potential in the Bucs' young defensive line. "We've been really impressed," he said. "They've got some young talent. Guys are really flying around; good speed as well. I think the future is bright for the Buccaneers. … Their defensive front is going to be one to be reckoned with in time."
GOING LONG: The team waived LS Christian Yount and replaced him with Scott Albritton. Albritton went undrafted in April, then was among the final cuts by the Texans. It also added LB Ross Homan to the practice squad and released LB Derrell Smith.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]om