Consider this string of formerly un-Herschel-like performances:
•On Sept. 30, in a 23-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Walker carried the ball 11 times for eight yards.
•The following Sunday, early in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions, Walker dropped a catchable pass on a fourth-and-one play from the Detroit 21. The score was tied at 20, but the Lions then drove for touchdowns on their next two possessions to win 34-27. "It's something I have to live with." Walker says. "A lot of people miss passes. What can I do?"
•On Oct. 15, in a Monday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Walker fumbled twice in crucial situations—at the Philadelphia eight in the first quarter and at the Minnesota 15 on a kick return in the third quarter. On another return, in the first quarter, Walker ran into the back of one of his blockers and fell down at the Minnesota 15. Banished to the sidelines, with three carries from scrimmage for three yards, Walker did not touch the ball for the final 21 minutes. The Eagles won 32-24, and the target of blame shifted from the Vikings to Walker.
"Mentally I wasn't in the game," Walker says. "I woke up that morning sick. I was dizzy and nauseous. I felt like I was going to throw up. I geared myself up to play, like I was going to fight Mike Tyson, and then in the first quarter and a half, they played me at wide receiver. It was different from what we had practiced. I wondered what in the world they were doing with me. My mind wandered. I got lost. I should have taken myself out."
•On Oct. 28, against the Green Bay Packers, Walker fumbled on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage. "A stupid, stupid mistake," says Walker, who was ordered out of the game by Minnesota coach Jerry Burns. The Packers converted the mistake into a field goal.
"When I fumbled I thought, Oh, man, I can't believe this," Walker says. "I was trying too hard. Coach [Tom] Moore came up to me and said, 'Hang in there.' But you hear comments, like one coach cursing me, 'Hang onto the——ball.' I'm not a kid. I don't want people to treat me like a kid. If you feel that way, tell me to my face. Don't do it when my back is turned." Green Bay won 24-10, and Walker finished with three carries for six yards. He also dropped the two passes thrown to him.
Some of the Vikings believe that Walker has lost his confidence.
"He's not playing with the same reckless abandon as last year," says quarterback Rich Gannon. "So much pressure has been put on him, it has worn him down. He has had so much to carry on his back, and he has taken a lot of heat. I see it in his eyes. When he fumbled against Green Bay, he looked upset, like, 'Jeez, what's going on?' I admire him and respect him, but I wouldn't want to be him."
Suggestions that he has lost his confidence anger Walker, who is a great believer in mind over matter and the power of positive thinking.