"Some guys go hunting on their days off," one Viking veteran says. "They go drinking, too. Some of them sit in a dark room and contemplate what happened in the game. Herschel went off to go bobsledding. The perception is this: He doesn't give a damn. He makes more than everybody on the team, and we gave up everything to get him. Guys want to see him talk about doing what's right for the team. We want a Super Bowl so bad we bleed for it. What does Herschel want?"
"I don't know if his priorities are straight," Millard says.
Walker says he is focused on football. "My biggest problem is that I've been answering questions honestly," he says. "Reporters asked me about bobsledding. I said I'd like to do it when the time comes. The time is not now. They asked me about my love for martial arts, and I admitted that someday I might like to be in a martial arts movie. But not now.
"In the past, I've said I'd like to fight Mike Tyson. I've danced with the Fort Worth ballet. I went through FBI training two off-seasons ago. I've always said I'd like to go into the FBI, but the chances are pretty slim that I ever will.
"Look, to be honest, I don't know what I'm going to do after my football career is over. I don't know what I'm going to be doing 10 years from now. I have no idea what I'm going to be doing two weeks from now. They may cut me. That's how bad I'm playing."
Recently, Walker's wife, Cindy, has seen signs that things are beginning to wear on her husband. A person who keeps his feelings to himself, Walker has withdrawn even more and has trouble sleeping. But after listening to Cindy talk about his problems for several hours last week, Walker finally let down his guard.
"I don't know, maybe I am running the ball differently," he says. "I don't know.... I do know if you tell a kid long enough that he's worthless, sooner or later, he'll start believing it. I don't feel like I fit in here. I've never been given a chance to fit in. I don't feel like I was ever meant to fit in here. Whose fault is that? I didn't ask for the trade.
"Look, I run best from the I formation and when I get the ball a lot. I haven't said, 'Only put me in the I formation, and give it to me 20 or 30 times a game.' I don't know what an optimal number of carries would be for me. I just need some. All I've been doing with this team is just being there, and that isn't enough.
"I may not be the back I was two years ago, when I was 26. I'm 28 now. But I know what I can do. I guarantee you, right now I can outrun any back in this league. I'm as strong as any of them. I can catch a pass as well as anyone. I want to have the opportunity to do what Herschel can do, to help this team out. I don't want to just be here. I haven't prepared myself to lose at anything."
From the moment Walker flew into Minneapolis last season, there was Herschel Mania everywhere he went. His arrival was trumpeted in one of the biggest press conferences in the city's history. Three days later, following one 2½-hour practice session during which he was taught just 12 offensive plays, Walker made a big splash on the field in his Viking debut. Before a record Metrodome crowd of 62,075, he produced the best rushing game by a Viking back since 1983, gaining 148 yards on 18 carries. He received three standing ovations, including one during a TV timeout.