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Falcons Invite Herschel Walker To Training Camp In Disarmingly Late April Fools’ Joke

Image courtesy of Zimbio

Image courtesy of Zimbio

File this one under “So…this is still happening.”

Last April, then 52-year-old former USFL/NFL running back Herschel Walker was running his mouth publicly about how he could still play at a professional level. Conveniently forgetting that he wasn’t particularly great through much of his career back when he actually did play professionally, something he hasn’t done for 17 years.

After three years in the (long since) defunct United States Football League, Walker was drafted out of Georgia (in a sense) by the Dallas Cowboys No. 114 overall (5th round) in the 1985 Draft. After two solid seasons in Dallas, Walker had the best year of his career in 1988, rushing for over 1,500 yards—on a Cowboys team that went 3-13 and finished 5th in the NFC East Division.

Wildly popular in Dallas, an upstart new coach named Jimmy Johnson wasn’t particularly impressed by Walker. After an 0-5 start (in what would be a 1-15 season) in 1989, Johnson pulled the trigger on a trade with the Minnesota Vikings that would change the course of Cowboys history forever. Not to mention the Vikings—only one for the better.

It would go down in history known simply as “The Trade.”

The Vikes were looking for a missing Super Bowl piece, which then GM Mike Lynn saw in Walker. Which is why he agreed to send five roster players to the Cowboys, as well as six conditional (high) draft picks to Dallas for the running back—the ultimate haul was between 16 and 18 players, many of whom would form the foundation for a budding dynasty.

Walker proved anything but the superstar they were looking for in Minnesota, in fact, with the team questioning his commitment to the game, he was released after the 1991 season. He played three serviceable seasons with the Eagles, a single miserable one with the Giants, and finished off his career with the Cowboys, playing a total of seven games over two years.

He may be a year older, but he’s certainly not any wiser. Time hasn’t helped bring Walker back to reality, unfortunately. In an appearance on “Boomer & Carton” last week, he parroted out the same nonsense all over again. Naturally Craig Carton, who was only doing his job, baited Walker by asking him straight up if he felt he could still play in the league.

“There is not a doubt in my mind, if I played today, I [could] contribute to a team,” Walker responded. He added, “The last time I ran a 40, I ran a 4.3. That was like a year ago. That was when I had not been doing any track work, all I had been doing was fighting.”

Image courtesy of Zimbio

Image courtesy of Zimbio

With all that in mind, it’s been 25 years since Walker contributed positively to a team—the 1992 Eagles. Yet, for reasons unknown, (unless he’s  just trying to be funny, in which case nailed it!) first year Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has invited Walker to training camp. This year’s training camp.

Quinn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “He’s one of my all-time favorite players. Yeah, we have room for him. For him, the legacy he left at Georgia … He’d definitely fit in great from a competitive standpoint.”

The fact of the matter is Walker didn’t care enough to prove himself as a player throughout most of his career in the NFL, so there’s no chance he’s going to seriously attempt a comeback and run the risk of embarrassing himself to the degree of which he would absolutely embarrass himself.

Boasting about doing something is substantially easier than actually doing something. Walker just likes the attention he gets when he says stuff like this, which is why he keeps doing it. And he’ll keep doing it, as long as we keep feeding the beast without making the guy put his money where his mouth is.

He’s a guy who likes to talk, and there’s nothing wrong with that—there are a lot of athletes whose mouths are the most exercised part of their bodies. The idea of Walker coming back is a joke, much like the entirety of the NFC South last season—the 7-8 Carolina Panthers won the division and hosted a playoff game.

In 2014 the 6-10 Falcons improved from their 4-12 showing the season before, but years of underachieving finally got coach Mike Smith fired. By the end of his tenure Smith and his notoriously terrible clock management had become the target of constant mockery. Atlanta had become a joke.

So it makes you wonder why a first-year head coach like Quinn would want to make himself the butt of a joke by playing the clown and telling a crowd of reporters a running back approaching his mid-50s would be welcomed at Atlanta’s training camp just because he liked watching him play in the 80s. The legacy he left at UGA has nothing to do with the current day Falcons.

I grew up in Pittsburgh a huge Pirates fan. Maybe if they struggle down the stretch and don’t make the playoffs this season, they’ll bring back Doug Drabek and Andy Van Slyke! Or at least invite them to Spring Training. After all, they were two of my favorite players growing up.

Just kidding, they would never do that because they were, at best, very good—not even great—in their prime, which was decades ago because they’re both very old now. That kind of idea is fine coming from a crackpot fan like me, not something you expect to hear from an NFL head coach.

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