Don’t Hold your Breath on Herschel Walker in the NFL

Most NFL coaches avoid distraction like the plague. And a few (Hi, Rex Ryan) enjoy being under the microscope a little too much.

Generally rookie mentors prefer to join the former group, staying under the radar while getting their sea legs in a job that often encompasses much more than just Xs and Os.

In fact, that’s the one thing most fans don’t understand about the job, a head football coach in the NFL is like a CEO, delegating responsibility, dealing with the media, managing 53 different personalities in his locker room, all the while trying to put out fires that can ignite out of nowhere.

When Mike Zimmer finally got his chance to play the lead role in Minnesota last season after two decades as a member of supporting casts around the league, his good friend, Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, gave him some friendly advice.

One of Parcells’ bullet points was this: “Four or five things happen in pro football every day that you wish wouldn’t happen. If you can’t handle those, you need to get another job.”

The last thing any coach wants to do is create one of those “things” but that’s exactly what Dan Quinn did in Atlanta recently when he paid lip service to Herschel Walker’s delusion.

The 53-year-old Walker, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 1997, made news when he told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton that he could still play in the NFL at the age of 53.

“There is not a doubt in my mind, if I played today, I (could) contribute to a team,” Walker told the radio show.

“Let me tell you the reason why (I can play),” Walker continued. “Running backs today don’t play every play. They only play, like, a couple of plays and they go out of the game. I can return kickoffs. I still run very well, like I’ve always (run). So I know I can be a positive thing.”

Herschel Walker #34 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball. Circa the 1990's.

Herschel Walker retired in 1997, but believes he can play in the NFL now.

Quinn made the mistake of agreeing.

“Yes,” the rookie head coach said at the Buckhead Business Association meeting when asked if Walker could play at the NFL level. “Yeah, we have room for him.”

Really Dan?

Now the NFL is certainly more specialized today and Walker has always been a workout warrior and a tremendous all-around athlete, one tough enough to enter the mixed-martial-arts cage in recent years. But, as Cris Carter would say, “C’mon man.”

This is a league where 30 is a dirty word and people forget just how bad Walker looked after his 12th NFL season as he finished a career in which he rushed for 8,225 yards in stints with Dallas, Minnesota, Philadelphia and the
New York Giants.

Walker, though, was a legend at the University of Georgia and Quinn evidently liked him in his younger days.

“He’s one of my all-time favorite players,” the former Seahawks defensive coordinator said. “He’d definitely fit in great from a competitive standpoint.”

What does that even mean?

Quinn, a former defensive lineman at Salisbury State, is nine years younger than Walker. and you can bet Paul Soliai, Ra’Shede Hageman and Kory Biermann aren’t worrying about losing their jobs to their new boss.

Walker playing NFL football in his early 50s is absurd and Quinn’s likely off-the-cuff quip to a fan at a business function in an attempt to create a feel-good moment locally generated national news stories with three different radio shows calling me to ask if Quinn’s invitation was sincere.

The Falcons don’t exactly have Adrian Peterson at running back but assuming ascending second-year player Devonta Freeman, rookie Tevin Coleman or the speedy Antone Smith aren’t better options that a guy who won the Heisman
Trophy when gas was 91 cents a gallon and the first issue of USA Today was published is insulting.

Quinn should learn a valuable lesson from this non-story. This is the NFL and everyone is listening.

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