Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 1:44PM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 2:52PM
Javon Walker leads the Broncos with 41 catches for 731 yards and six touchdowns.
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Javon Walker and I were supposed to have dinner last Thursday night, but the Denver Broncos' elusive deep threat called an audible, instructing me to follow his black Hummer out of the team's training facility to a nearby juice bar.
Cool, I figured -- being a little travel-weary, a soy-milk-based smoothie would hit the spot. Walker, 28, had other ideas: Wheat grass, that ecological elixir with the oh-so-verdant taste. I ordered a single, one-ounce shot; Walker got his daily quad, which he downed in one sip, no chaser.
Health is especially important to Walker as he continues his marvelous comeback from a torn ACL and damaged meniscus cartilage in his right knee. I've known him since his rookie year in Green Bay, when I showed up to do an interview at then-Packers safety Darren Sharper's house and Walker was kicking it in the kitchen. I was also at Detroit's Ford Field on Sept. 11, 2005, when Walker, coming off a Pro Bowl season, jumped to catch a 55-yard pass from Brett Favre -- it was called back due to offensive pass interference -- and felt the pop in his knee that cemented his departure from Titletown.
The Packers' loss was the Broncos' gain: After sending a second-round pick to Green Bay for Walker on draft day (and later signing him to a five-year, $40 million contract extension), Denver coach Mike Shanahan has a tall, athletic, fleet-footed toy with which to frustrate opposing defenses. Here are some highlights from our 40 minutes in Blenderville.
Silver: You had that monster game in Pittsburgh, and then Ike Taylor, a guy who got a $22.5 million contract extension in September, lost his starting job three days later. Do you feel responsible?
Walker: I know Ike, and he's a real good guy. There could be a lot of other stuff that went into that. I don't think he could get benched off one game. I mean, a lot of people have bad games and don't get benched.
Silver: Take me back to that moment when you hurt your knee. What do you remember?
Walker: Wow. I didn't know exactly what had happened; obviously, I kept running down the sidelines, and when I tried to cut back and score I felt something go wrong. I didn't know what it was. I lay down on the ground for a little and then I started walking and thought, It might not be so bad. I was thinking I'd sit out a play or two and then try to go back in, but the doctors told me to wait. And then it started to swell up, and I thought, Oh, man.
Silver: That must have been a scary time for you. A few months earlier your agent at the time, Drew Rosenhaus, had suggested you might hold out of training camp because of your displeasure with your contract. Then Favre criticized you for that stance, you showed up as scheduled, and now all of a sudden in the season opener you were damaged goods. Were you stressed?
Walker: All of that was racing through my head. But I knew teams had a right to think that about me, so I focused on getting back and showing them that I could be the same player I was before. And so far, it's going very, very well. I mean, even my doctor told me, "I've seen people come back fast, but I've never seen anyone come back this fast."
Silver: I'd say your 72-yard touchdown run on a reverse against the Steelers (on Nov. 5) pretty much settled that question. Did your ability to pull away on that play surprise you?
Walker: I'm not gonna lie to you: When he called the reverse, what I was thinking was, Man, I don't want to get hit. Any way I can avoid a tackle, I'm gonna do it. So that's what I tried to do, and I got all the way to the end zone. I mean, I'm no running back. A running back might get hit more in one game than a wide receiver will get hit in an entire season. Who likes to get hit? I was just looking for lanes, and if you noticed, I looked back like five times to make sure nobody was around.