Walker's past returns to haunt him
Three false starts are a tough reminder of what a pain Carolina's Julius Peppers can be.
By JOANNE KORTH
Published November 7, 2005
TAMPA - By the third time, all Bucs right tackle Kenyatta Walker could do was put his hands on his knees and shake his head. And walk back five more yards.
Three times in five snaps, Walker moved before the ball was snapped in an effort to keep hard-charging Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers out of the backfield. The episode not only derailed Tampa Bay's offense, but rekindled memories Walker hoped to forget in his matchup with one of the league's best ends.
Peppers, who has been a thorn in the Bucs' side since 2003, was credited with five tackles, including two sacks of quarterback Chris Simms for minus-12 yards.
Walker said he was responsible for one of Peppers' sacks.
"This is probably my worst game against him," Walker said. "I'm very disappointed. This game is very humbling. But I'll see him again. I've played him plenty enough times, and I have to take my hat off to him. Sometimes you beat the bear, and sometimes the bear beats you."
Walker admitted his trio of false starts robbed the offense of momentum one series after a 50-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway cut the Panthers' lead to 10-7 in the second quarter.
"I haven't done that all year," Walker said of the false starts, which occurred in one set of downs. "It was a little bit emotion, a little bit excitement. It put us in a bad position and from there, I think, it kind of went downhill."
Peppers' sacks came in the next two series, including one in the half's final minute that sidelined left tackle Anthony Davis with a knee injury after Peppers landed on him.
Peppers refused to claim a psychological edge over Walker or admit that history had anything to do with Sunday's outcome.
"Those things that happened a few years ago, that's squashed," said Peppers, who combines speed and power at 6 feet 7, 283 pounds. "We don't really talk about all that old stuff anymore. We had a good game plan and we executed it."
Walker's performance, however, was reminiscent of prior meetings. In 2003, he struggled to block Peppers and committed seven penalties in two games, including three personal fouls and one unsportsmanlike conduct.
"I don't know how much an apology does, but I'm apologetic to the fans," said Walker, who is 6 feet 5, 302 pounds. "I know they want to come out and see a good team, and for us to play like that, for myself to play like that, is a disappointment."
The setback is surprising for Walker, having arguably the best season of his career. On a unit with three first-year starters, Walker has emerged as a reliable performer in control of his emotions.
"I'm supposed to be the best player on the offensive line, and to play like that is disappointing," said Walker, the team's first-round pick from Florida in 2001. "I had a series or two that was not in character with who I am right now."
All he can do is await the Dec.11 rematch at Carolina.
"The good thing about it is we see them again," he said. "I have to play better. Every Sunday you have to redeem yourself. I've been here before. It's not a good feeling, but I'll bounce back. I'm going to hold my chin up and keep going."