Return specialist

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Last November, David Allen was labelled every nasty name in the book.

Depending on who you asked, he was a two-timing, backstabbing, double-crossing traitor, a turncoat defector who deserted the local CFL heroes in their hour of need on the eve of the West semifinal.

Or just a guy looking for another shot in the NFL.

"You could call it that ... when you come in, you never know what's going to happen," Allen said, smiling at the thought some people felt he bailed on his teammates.

A month after joining the Stampeders last season as an emergency fill-in returner on special teams, the talented running back exercised an unusual 'out' clause in his contract to sign with the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

While nobody could blame a player for pursuing his big-league aspirations in the off-season, Allen's timing last fall was less than impeccable.

"When I came in here, we were 7-7 with an opportunity to maybe make it to the playoffs but you never know what's going to happen," said Allen, 28.

"When I structured my last contract, I still had NFL teams looking at me and that was still the dream, to play down there. So we added to my old contract that if an NFL team called and still wanted me, then I'd be released at that time. It could have been the first week, the second week. As it turned out, it was right before the playoffs.

"It was a tough decision because we had a chance to win the Grey Cup but it was something I felt I had to do."

Stampeders fans will be relieved to know Allen signed a two-year deal, plus an option, preventing him from again making tracks for the NFL until after the 2007 CFL season. By then, he'll be too old to attract much serious attention south of the border.

As late as last week, there was still some NFL interest in Allen to return kicks but the Texas native grew tired of waiting.

"There were some NFL teams that seemed interested but kept saying they wanted to wait a little bit (before signing him) but I want to play right now," said Allen, a Kansas State product who signed with San Francisco in 2001 as an undrafted rookie.

He eventually spent parts of four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars before being released early last year, leading to his first, albeit short, taste of the CFL.

Now he's back for what he hopes will be a long, productive career.

"I thought I had a much better chance to come up here, return kicks and play on offence as well and not just play special teams," Allen said.

"This is my fifth year out of school and I've been through the whole process but I was just tired of sitting around and waiting. Even when you wait, there's no guarantee so when another team offers you an opportunity to play ... to me it's about playing football and I enjoy playing the game so I jumped at the opportunity.

"Any way I can get my hands on the football is good by me."

Allen has returned to Stampeders training camp, not to answer his critics but to win his old job back.

Last season he impressed in his four-game stint, posting a 208-yard night against Winnipeg.

"I've got this year and next year, I know where I'm going to be, regardless of what happens," Allen said.

"Now I know where I'll be, who I'm going to be playing for.

"I'm excited to get another chance to come back and play football and be a part of a team that had a great run last year and can hopefully win the whole thing this year."

Right now Allen's not playing at all, sidelined with a strained Achilles tendon for at least a couple more days. The Stampeders expect him to fit nicely into a dynamic backfield, spelling off both Joffrey Reynolds and Tony Stallings, while also returning punts and kickoffs.

"We've got a great group of running backs so any one of us can step in and go the distance on any play," Allen said.

"That should make it an exciting season. We all have different running styles. It will be a change of pace for opposing defences because we all bring different things to the table."


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