After be­ing out of foot­ball for two years, Tay­lor may win job

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

RICH­MOND | Hit rewind and travel back to March, to a mo­ment at the NFL own­ers’ meet­ings where Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den was asked how he planned to fill his team’s va­cancy at nose tackle. At that time, Gru­den placed his faith in new de­fen­sive line coach Jim Tom­sula.

“Coach Tom­sula has as­sured me that he will find a nose guard,” Gru­den said. “He’ll make a nose guard. If you look at his track record, you look at the nose guards he’s had, none of them have been pri­or­ity first-round draft choices.”

With less than a month un­til the start of the reg­u­lar season, the Red­skins have honed in on Phil Tay­lor Sr. as their starting nose tackle. He’s taken the most reps there dur­ing train­ing camp and was in when the starting de­fense played in its 3-4 align­ment in the first pre­sea­son game. If Tay­lor re­mains the starter, Tom­sula can no longer claim that he hasn’t needed first-round picks at that spot: Tay­lor was se­lected 21st over­all by the Browns in the 2011 draft.

By the time Tay­lor signed a fu­tures con­tract with the Red­skins in Jan­uary, though, he wasn’t the same player Cleve­land chose. Tay­lor wasn’t even sure if he was a foot­ball player any more. He’d had mul­ti­ple knee surg­eries, hadn’t

played foot­ball since 2014 and had been cut twice by the Browns and Den­ver Bron­cos. Tay­lor thought his body might have de­feated him.

When Tay­lor took the field Thurs­day night it was his first time play­ing an NFL game in nearly three years.

“It was emo­tional,” Tay­lor said Satur­day. “It was more sur­real. Just doubt­ing your­self in the be­gin­ning, talk­ing about re­tire­ment, ‘I don’t know if I can come back,’ just push­ing through. My wife, my kid, just help­ing me out with things. It was emo­tional to just fi­nally be out there, see the crowd, come out of that tun­nel again, it was awe­some.”

At 6-foot-3 and 343 pounds, Tay­lor looks the part of a mas­sive run-stuffer who can take on dou­ble-teams with sheer size. When he stands straight, he seems rooted into the ground. On Thurs­day in Bal­ti­more, he showed mo­bil­ity, too, snag­ging Ravens run­ning back Ter­rance West, an old friend from Cleve­land, by the legs to stuff him on what would have been a touch­down run (West did even­tu­ally score on the same drive).

Tay­lor, hav­ing spent the first four years of his ca­reer in the AFC North, knew sev­eral of the Ravens, who wished him well and con­grat­u­lated him on his re­turn after the game. Tay­lor also knew Gru­den, a former Ben­gals of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, from di­vi­sional bat­tles.

“We had a lit­tle ri­valry in Cincin­nati,” Tay­lor said. “He didn’t like me too much but I didn’t like their O-line ei­ther . ... It’s the AFC North. They call it the blackand-blue di­vi­sion.”

“He was tough to deal with, he re­ally was,” Gru­den said, re­mem­ber­ing the prob­lems Tay­lor caused for his Ben­gals of­fenses.

Last year, the Red­skins had Tay­lor in for a work­out. It went well, but Tay­lor’s knee still didn’t look healed. The Red­skins passed, and Gru­den as­sumed Tay­lor caught on some­where else. That work­out, though, was the only one Tay­lor had un­til the Red­skins brought him back.

“I didn’t even know he was on the streets,” Gru­den said. “His knee looked bet­ter. He was in good shape.”

Tay­lor was ea­ger to come back to foot­ball, but he needed a lit­tle push. The call from the Red­skins came less than a week after he’d de­scribed him­self as “re­tired” for the first time. He’d started think­ing about how to use his de­gree, or maybe going back to Ohio and find­ing a coach­ing job, and he wasn’t fully con­fi­dent his body could han­dle an NFL work­load again. Ul­ti­mately, it was Tay­lor’s wife who pushed him to sign the con­tract.

“She said get your [ex­ple­tive] off the couch, put the [ex­ple­tive] con­troller down and get to work,” Tay­lor said. “And what she says, goes, you know? Happy wife, happy life.”

It helped that Tay­lor grew up a Red­skins fan in Clin­ton, Mary­land and went to Gwynn Park High School in Brandy­wine. Mostly, the fact that Wash­ing­ton sought him out gave Tay­lor con­fi­dence.

“It was more just, they see some­thing in me,” Tay­lor said. “They know I’m not done. In my mind I re­ally wasn’t done but at the same time, that doubt was try­ing to set in. You can’t let doubt set in. So I mean, it was the home team, I grew up a Red­skins fan. Why not? I was ex­cited.”

Red­skins coaches see it as a win-win. Tay­lor still has much of the tal­ent that got him drafted in the first round to be­gin with, well worth the vet­eran min­i­mum salary. He’s got more than two years of rust to shake off, but a healthy body and the ded­i­ca­tion to keep it that way.

Ear­lier in his ca­reer, Tay­lor thought that if coaches saw him in the train­ing room a lot, they would think he was in­jured. Now, he goes ev­ery day after prac­tice and gets reg­u­lar mas­sages, cryother­apy and acupunc­ture treat­ments. Tay­lor keeps lim­ber dur­ing the off­sea­son by do­ing yoga on the beach by his house in Naples, Florida. He’s too big to do it on a towel, so he drags a com­forter out on the sand.

Tay­lor has made more than $9 mil­lion over the course of his foot­ball ca­reer. What­ever he gets out of this se­cond life on the field he con­sid­ers a bonus, play­ing out his de­sire to “be on this field un­til they drag me off of it.”

Tay­lor says he feels as if he’s play­ing with noth­ing to lose, but he may have won him­self a starting job come Septem­ber. His come­back story is in­com­plete, but the fact that Tay­lor is ea­ger to give it a shot has im­pressed coaches on its own. Tay­lor may have been a first-round pick, but he has the tenac­ity Tom­sula is known for cov­et­ing in less cov­eted play­ers.

“You just re­ally en­joy be­ing with him and his mind­set and the way he’s going about this,” Tom­sula said. “OK? You’re telling me Phil Tay­lor fi­nan­cially needs to play foot­ball? Don’t you love that? He doesn’t have to do that. He’s here for the right rea­sons.”


Wash­ing­ton Red­skins de­fen­sive line­man Phil Tay­lor Sr. has taken the most reps at starting nose tackle. He was out of foot­ball for two years after mul­ti­ple knee surg­eries.


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