For­mer Ravens QB Tay­lor leads Bills into Bal­ti­more

Cecil Whig - - & - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ ce­cil­whig. com

— Dur­ing his four years as a backup quar­ter­back for the Bal­ti­more Ravens, Ty­rod Tay­lor would talk with his team­mates about fac­ing them one day.

Those fan­tasies be­come re­al­ity Sun­day when Tay­lor leads his Buf­falo Bills into M& T Bank Sta­dium to kick off the 2016 sea­son.

“We al­ways used to talk about the day that I would get a chance to play against them. It’s here,” Tay­lor said. “Me and [ Ter­rell] Suggs talked about it a lot, me and [ Elvis] Dumervil. It’s funny, one of our coaches here now – Ed Reed – we talked about those days when I would even­tu­ally get my op­por­tu­nity and come back and play against Bal­ti­more.”

The Ravens drafted Tay­lor in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. But be­cause quar­ter­back Joe Flacco never missed a game un­til last sea­son, Tay­lor’s chances

OWINGS MILLS

to prove him­self were few and far be­tween. He threw 35 to­tal passes through four years in Bal­ti­more.

“There’s no bad terms be­tween me and Bal­ti­more. I’m thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity that Ozzie New­some and Coach [ John] Har­baugh and Mr. [ Steve] Bis­ciotti gave me as a rookie and as a guy com­ing out of col­lege,” Tay­lor said. “When I left, me and Coach Har­baugh had the op­por­tu­nity to talk, as well as with Joe. They knew that I wanted an op­por­tu­nity just to com­pete for a start­ing po­si­tion and I was for­tu­nate to get that here in Buf­falo. I wouldn’t turn that down and they wouldn’t want me to turn that down ei­ther. I’m happy with how things turned out.”

Tay­lor signed with the Bills, but seem­ingly en­tered their quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion as the odd man out.

“Ev­ery­body knows Ty­rod is a heck of a quar­ter­back and Bal­ti­more never wanted to lose him, that’s for sure. But, Ty­rod went to a team and wanted an op­por­tu­nity where he could be­come a start­ing quar­ter­back,” Bills head coach Rex Ryan said Wed­nes­day. “We had three quar­ter­backs. We had EJ Manuel, who is an in­cum­bent. We traded for Matt Cas­sell to ba­si­cally be the start­ing quar­ter­back. I was like ‘ Ty­rod, I prom­ise you I’ll give you a chance.’ He bet on him­self and won the job, so that may have sur­prised some peo­ple.”

One man who wasn’t sur­prised was Flacco.

“I was just al­ways hop­ing a guy like that would get a shot. Ob­vi­ously, when he got that shot, he made the most of it. I didn’t have a doubt in the world that when he did, he’d make the most of it,” Flacco said. “Buf­falo gave him that shot. He went in there pre­pared and won over ev­ery­body in that build­ing. He’s play­ing the way that I would ex­pect him to play. He’s a good quar­ter- back and I think he’s gained a lot of trust in that or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

The Bills dis­played their trust in Tay­lor by sign­ing him to a five- year con­tract ex­ten­sion this off­sea­son.

Tay­lor led Buf­falo to an 8- 6 record in the games he started last year. He threw for 3,035 yards, 20 touch­downs and just six in­ter­cep­tions. He also rushed for 568 yards and four scores.

As Tay­lor was en­joy­ing a break- out year in Buf­falo, Flacco suf­fered his first ma­jor in­jury. The Ravens strug­gled down the stretch with­out a ca­pa­ble backup quar­ter­back.

A torn ACL and MCL caused Flacco to miss the fi­nal six games of the 2015 sea­son – the only missed starts of his ca­reer.

“That was tough to hear about. Me and Joe keep in con­tact,” Tay­lor said. “I hit him up as soon as I heard about it. He hit me right back, ac­tu­ally. I was kind of sur­prised be­cause I thought that he would be ei­ther with fam­ily or with the doc­tors, but I was able to talk to him. He’s a sol­dier, he fought back from it. He ac­tu­ally got back up on the field and was able to keep play­ing for a cou­ple more plays – that’s just Joe. He’s a close friend of mine.”

Tay­lor added that he learned from watch­ing Flacco’s daily prepa­ra­tion for four years.

The kind words will end Sun­day. Flacco wants to re­turn from his knee in­jury with a win and Tay­lor wants the same from his re­turn to Bal­ti­more. The Ravens and Bills both hope to start their sea­sons 1- 0.

For Bal­ti­more’s de­fense, that makes Tay­lor any other quar­ter­back that needs to be stopped.

“He’s very elu­sive. We had a lot of prac­tice against him when he was here,” Suggs said. “With an ath­letic quar­ter­back like that, he has the ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­tend plays. We ac­cept the chal­lenge.”

Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: @ Sean_ Ce­cil­Whig

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