Familiar Broncos faces become foes this week for Vikings' Walker
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Nearly every day in the NFL, somewhere, thanks to free agency, a player is asked what it will be like to face his former team.
"No emotions," Walker insisted. "It's like playing the 49ers."
This is Walker's seventh season, his first with Minnesota after spending two in Denver. He signed with Minnesota hoping to help the Vikings improve their defense, but also because the Broncos had to heed the salary cap. They were confident enough that a second-year player, Lenny Walls, could do the job.
"We thought Lenny had a good future with us and really played pretty good last year," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "You always hate to lose a guy like Denard, but we thought ... Lenny was a guy that was young and could step in and play well."
So far, he has. Walls, who went undrafted out of Boston College last year, leads the team with 14 pass breakups.
Walker told people that Denver wouldn't miss anything with his departure because of Walls.
"If I was doing a Pro Bowl analysis of guys in the AFC right now," Walker said, "I think he would be my starter right now on one side."
It's not just Walker, certainly, but Minnesota's defense has made a remarkable improvement this year -- especially in the secondary. The Vikings lead the NFL with 13 interceptions. Although Walker has only one, tight coverage by him and cornerback Brian Williams have allowed safeties Brian Russell and Corey Chavous to make most of the big plays.
Russell has five interceptions, one away from tying Hall-of-Famer Paul Krause's team record of six straight games with an INT. Chavous has four.
Walker's biggest contribution this week, though, might come in the meeting rooms.
"I think Denard is a student of the game, and I'm sure we will get something from him," coach Mike Tice said, referring to Walker's recollection of Denver's tendencies and intricacies.
He sure hasn't said anything bad about the Broncos. Likewise, they seem to remember the soft-spoken Walker fondly.
"Denard was cool," wide receiver Rod Smith said. "He was real quiet, a very humble guy.
"He's just one of those guys that just loves a challenge."
Even if he won't admit it, Walker is bound to be eager to perform well against a previous employer.
"Denard is definitely probably going to be a little bit more wired," Smith said. "If anything, he's going to be wired up because those guys are undefeated."
Walls, at 6-foot-4, might have a better chance to defend Vikings star receiver Randy Moss than most because of his height.
"Even if you beat him by a step, his hands and arms are so long, he's still right there," Smith said of facing Walls in practice. "He's a lot more physical than most people think, and he's going to grow into a real good corner for us."
The only change to the injury report was the addition of kicker Aaron Elling, who has back spasms. He didn't kick in Thursday's practice, but he's listed as probable. "As far as I know, it should be fine," Elling said. ... Denver has several Minnesota connections: Shanahan was an assistant at the University of Minnesota in 1979, defensive backs coach David Gibbs was the Gophers' defensive coordinator from 1997-2000 and defensive line coach Keith Millard starred for the Vikings from 1985-1991. Also, cornerback Willie Middlebrooks and center Ben Hamilton played for the Gophers in the late 1990s.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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