Earlier this week, Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker was named one of the team’s six captains. When Walker decided to re-sign with Detroit this offseason, coach Dan Campbell told him “This (team) is yours,” Campbell said in a behind-the-scenes video. “So what do you want to do with it.”
Safe to say, Walker’s season debut as captain of the team did not go as planned. Though Walker played well defensively in the first half of the game, finishing with 11 tackles, one sack and a pass defended, he made a critical mental error in the third quarter.
With just under three minutes left in the third quarter and the Lions down just 10, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scrambled to pick up a huge first down on a third-and-4. At the end of the play, Hurts slid—albeit late—and Walker threw his shoulder and helmet into Hurts, making contact with his upper body, possibly his head.
Walker was immediately flagged for the play. It’s a tough call, but it happens during a bang-bang play like that. Unfortunately that’s where Walker made things worse. While pleading to the officials his case to pick up the penalty, an Eagles player gives him a hefty shove, trying to send a message and protect his quarterback. Walker retaliated, but he wasn’t flagged for his initial shove back. After getting pushed in the back again, Walker took a swing at Eagles receiver Zach Pascal, and that’s what drew the flag.
“I just let my team down,” Walker said after the game. “Me, as a team captain, I’ve just got to be better. I was hot-headed at the moment, and like I said, I’ve just got to make better decisions at the end of the day.”
That push was enough to not only draw a second flag on Walker, but it was deemed a serious enough offense to draw an ejection. On the very next play, the Eagles ran a screen to the side of Walker’s replacement—JuJu Hughes—and Hughes slipped, allowing the Eagles to scamper down all the way to the 1-yard line for 22-yard gain. The Eagles would score on the next play and bump the score to 38-21—the last and necessary score for the Eagles to win 38-35.
That was not a characteristic play from Walker, and he says he’ll learn from it.
“It’s a learning experience for me and I will be better from here on out.”