On Delanie Walker, cancers and bad teams

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
8:49
AM ET
NEW YORK -- The reaction to Delanie Walker's concern about a half dozen teammate from 2013 that he called cancers has been mostly surprise.

But it shouldn’t be.

It shouldn’t be because Walker talked of it before. After the Tennessee Titans lost to previously winless Jacksonville on Nov. 11, 2013, Walker said: “We’ve got to find that cancer because it’s slowing us down. We’re going to have to find out.”

[+] EnlargeDelanie Walker
Mark Humphrey/AP PhotoDelanie Walker on getting certain teammates to play hard: "If they dont want to do it, you cant make them do it. No matter what."
He and Bernard Pollard talked repeatedly of guys who didn’t want to be there, and how the Titans needed them to turn in their stuff.

More broadly than that, I think every bad team likely has guys Walker would identify as cancers -- players who don’t practice hard enough, who don’t care enough, who give up hope once a season takes a bad turn, who are more concerned about their contract status than the team.

It’s part of what makes those bad teams bad teams. And the 7-9 Titans were a bad team.

Walker and Pollard played in the Super Bowl a year ago before signing with the Titans. Their experience in a winning culture was part of the reason Tennessee wanted them.

That pedigree, however, didn’t mean a lot to the guys Walker complained about in his interview with us on The Midday 180 on Wednesday.

“They look at us like, ‘This ain’t the 49ers, this ain’t the Baltimore Ravens,’” Walker said. “I was like, 'We go to the Super Bowl, we go to the playoffs, we’re always in it. We’re talked about. We’ve got prime-time games.' You give them that, but they’re like, 'Who cares? You’re with the Titans now.'

"And then you’re like, 'OK, we’re with the Titans but we’re trying to turn that around. You see us speaking out, you see us playing our hearts out, we go out every day, we play hard, we never give up.' And it’s hard to relay that message to guys that don’t want to do it. If they don’t want to do it, you can’t make them do it. No matter what. I’m not the coach, I’m your teammate.

“I can’t make you play. I can’t tell you what to do. I can get in your face: 'You’re terrible, you’re hurting the team.' It doesn’t do nothing.”

I asked if Walker thinks it’s common on bad teams.

“Yeah, because when you’re on a bad team you start acting like you’re on a bad team," he said. "You’re like, ‘We might lose anyway.’ You go into a game thinking you might lose.”

With the 49ers, things started to change when Jim Harbaugh took over as coach.

Like fans of the team he plays for, Walker is hoping a similar transformation occurs in Tennessee with Ken Whisenhunt now at the controls.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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