Given some time, Walker could haunt his old team

December 02, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

This Sunday could be haunting time for Herschel Walker.

Unceremoniously released last June by the Minnesota Vikings, Walker faces his old team for the first time when the Vikings visit his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a matchup of NFC powers this weekend.

Walker met unrelenting Super Bowl expectations in 1989 upon his arrival in Minneapolis as the marquee player in a blockbuster deal with the Dallas Cowboys. He rushed for 2,264 yards in 42 games for the Vikings, averaging 4.1 a carry. But it wasn't enough to put the team in the Super Bowl, for which the veteran running back was criticized often and ultimately ignored in his coach's game plans. Coach Jerry Burns never found a way to use Walker's running style.

In Philadelphia, Walker's career has had a rebirth. He leads the Eagles with 776 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Dennis )) Green, who replaced Burns as Vikings coach and made the decision to release Walker last summer, said he felt he had no choice after the two men met in the off-season.

"It turned into a bad situation for Herschel," Green said. "We had a great visit. He felt the situation was intolerable, and he was probably right. It had gone beyond a sensible, team-oriented atmosphere. It became Herschel's atmosphere. . . . What's right or wrong about Herschel. The trade became a convenient excuse for the lack of success."

Green has tried to play down the confrontation. "A lot of players on this team never played with him," he said. "I wasn't here, either, so it doesn't have any effect on me at all."

Still Green said he expects Walker to be in a "positive frame of mind to get the Eagles over the hump." The 9-3 Vikings can clinch the NFC Central title with a win. The Eagles, tied with Washington at 7-5, are a game ahead of Green Bay for the NFC's last wild-card berth.

Whether Walker gets the chance to haunt the Vikings is in question, though. The same problem that hampered him in Minnesota has surfaced in Philadelphia: reduced playing time. In the Eagles' first five games, he averaged 23 carries and 92 rushing yards, and the team went 4-1. In their past five games, he averaged 12 carries and 40 yards, and the team went 2-3. In Sunday's 20-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Walker carried three times for 2 yards, a circumstance coach Rich Kotite blamed on poor run-blocking.

Injury proof

Jimmy Johnson, coach of the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys, says it's no coincidence his team has been relatively injury-free.

"Probably the unhealthiest teams around the league are the ones that are losing," he said. "If you're winning, they [the players] want to be out on the field. If you're losing, you want to be hurt."

Johnson, an advocate of mid-week hitting going back to his days at the University of Miami, went one step further.

"People used to rave back in college about how physical our practices were," he said. "They'd say, 'How do you keep them healthy?' I'd say the worst thing in the world is to be soft all week and then throw them into the game. Then you get hurt. If you're physical all week long, the only people who get hurt are the opponents."

The 10-2 Cowboys have had only two starters on injured reserve this year, safeties Ray Horton and Robert Williams.

Helping hand

Seattle Seahawks safety Nesby Glasgow, a former Baltimore Colt, organized an auction of sports memorabilia that raised more than $6,000 for 3-year-old Janai Cante, who needs a bone marrow transplant. Glasgow's auction was one in a series of HTC benefits in the Northwest to help Janai. The Seattle Mariners, Washington Huskies and rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot also contributed to the fund, which has raised enough money for the operation.

"She's a very cute little girl," said Glasgow, who became involved after a televised report on her plight. "That's what touched a lot of people. A child is so helpless and so precious. I have a daughter of my own, and I'd go door-to-door if she `D needed an operation like that."

Miscellaneous

New Orleans Saints QB Bobby Hebert is 15-0 as a starter against AFC teams after beating the Miami Dolphins. He'll face the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets later this month. . . . DT Michael Dean Perry, upset with the defensive scheme employed by Bill Belichick in Cleveland, says he'll ask the Browns to trade him in the off-season. . . . After passing for 238 yards in a 31-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams, Vikings QB Sean Salisbury will start against the Eagles ahead of Rich Gannon again. . . . Chicago Bears RB Neal Anderson, who fumbled twice in his previous 320 carries, fumbled twice in eight carries, leading to 10 Cleveland points in a 27-14 loss. . . . In GM Bobby Beathard's third season, the San Diego Chargers have brought in 38 new players to a 47-man roster. And at 7-5, the Chargers are in the running for the AFC's third wild-card spot.

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