This year, Raider-Nation has been flying high on optimism and hope. There have been alot of positive things to give Raider fans hope.
Last year, under Head Coach Tom Cable, the Raiders looked like a team for the first time in years. They showed great improvement over the last six games going 3-3 to finish the season with 2 back-to-back wins over playoff hopeful teams in Denver, Houston, and Tampa Bay.
This off-season, the Raiders brought in a good deal of free-agent talent, bolstering the o-line and adding veteran leadership. Their receiving core is finally looking like a quality unit, and Chaz Schilens seems poised for an eminent break-out year.
Just this week, the Raiders handed "America's Team" a 31-10 beat-down. And to make things better, the rest of the AFC West seems to be in shambles and disarray.
But, after a positive series of moves and performances, the events of the last two weeks brought many of us crashing back to earth.
First, Tom Cable allegedly broke Randy Hansons jaw by punching him, throwing him across a room, or pulling a chair out from under him. Then, JaMarcus Russell throw new target, Chaz Schilens, goes down with a broken bone in his foot, out 4-6 weeks. Now, four time Pro-Bowler and veteran FB Lorenzo Neal, is placed on I.R. after suffering an injury.
In our 21-20 loss to the 49ers, we were reminded how bad our run defense is. In the same game, Raider leading tackler Kirk Morrison, went down with a dislocated elbow, out at least two weeks.
All that and we are only half way through preseason.
So where does the enigma, Javon Walker fit in? Is he a reason for hope or just another set-back like he was last year?
He has gone through some good and bad times; lately more bad than good. But some are expecting him to return to his former play-making self.
In 2004, he gained 1382 yards on 89 receptions and 12 TDs for the Green Bay Packers. In 2005, he threatened to hold-out for a bigger contract, only to suffer a season ending knee injury in the first game of the season after recording a career low four receptions for 27 yards.
Then in 2006, Walker was traded to the Denver Broncos for a second round pick. Many questioned whether he would return to form after a knee injury, but in 2006, he proved his doubters wrong with 69 receptions and 1084 yards.
Then the New Years Day 2007 tragedy struck for Javon Walker.
While at a night-club, Brandon Marshall and his cousin got into a confrontation with some patrons. The patrons were allegedly throwing up gang signs and were escorted out of the building.
Walker had no knowledge of the aforementioned dispute. Outside the club after closing time, Walker and fellow Bronco Darrent Williams saw Marshall and his cousin engaged in a heated verbal fight. The two intervened and eventually left in a stretch Hummer being rented for the night by Williams.
Local rappers identified the unhappy patrons outside, as the same people Marshall and his cousin were involved in an altercation inside the club with.
Later that night, a few miles from the club, Williams' car was attacked in a drive-by shooting. Williams would die in the arms of fellow team-mate Javon due to a gun shot wound to the neck.
To this day, many question how he is dealing with Williams death.
For his next two seasons, Walker was never the same person or player on the field.
In 2007, he would only play in 8 games making 26 receptions for 287 yards. Then in 2008, things finally started looking up for Walker. He signed a huge contract with the Oakland Raiders for six years, $55 million, and a $16 million dollar signing bonus.
Then came June 17th 2008.
After a night of heavy drinking and big spending where Walker spent $15,000 on champagne, he was found beaten, robbed, and left unconscious with multiple broken bones in his face. That paired with more knee problems, and Walker was limited to 15 receptions, 196 yards, and one TD.
Then fast forward to now and it would seem either all is well for Javon, as some are predicting him as the come-back player of the year. Or his recovery is being over-hyped, which can only resort in hordes of disappointed Raider fans.
First, Walker restructured his monstrous contract saving the Raiders over 9 million in cap space. One stipulation for his new contract was he would remain with the team through 2009, and he couldn't be traded or released.
Also this off-season, Walker has said he's done alot of soul searching.
He traveled all over the world to places like the Dead Sea and Israel. Pretty much, he went Dahani Jones on us.
Then this off-season, Walker had a "new revolutionary" surgery on his knee. He actually said now is the first time in three years he is able to play without any pain in his knee.
And then there's the reports of how he looks. He actually looks great running, catching, making cuts, etc,. Hes even said he feels faster than he's ever been before.
All that seems amazing, but can it all be true? Will Walker be able to deal with his tragic past? No doubt memories of Williams death will plague him for the rest of his life.
Which Walker will we see this year- the one we saw last year or something more resembling his 2004-2006 seasons?
Well, we will find out the answers to these questions soon enough.
This weekend against the Saints, Walker is expected to make his 2009 preseason debut and alot of questions will be answered.