The signs of mourning invaded every corner of Redskins Park, stretching into the parking lot.
Taylor: The Quiet Star
To me, Taylor was like a neighbor who I see every day, say hello to, but never really get to know. His teammates and coaches say he matured. I have no reason to doubt them. Before training camp started, one member of the organization, in a casual chat, spoke about the "new" Sean Taylor: he was more confident, used to Gregg Williams' ways and the ways of the NFL and simply more mature. This guy wasn't trying to prop up Tayor; rather, it was just his observation.
In many ways, reporters never really get to know all sides of the players they cover. There have been some terrific guys here in the past who probably had a darker side, one we didn't see. So I'm quite certain Taylor had many sides that would have been nice to see and write about. But I did see how he reacted to kids requests for autographs; with a smile and a few words.
What I do know, however, is how he changed as a football player. That's the way I knew him best. After three years of waiting for his immense talent to click in -- it showed up in spurts and sometimes for extended stretches -- it finally did so this season. Taylor had settled into his role as strictly a free safety; he became more of a student of the game; he dropped 20 pounds in the offseason, making a fast man even faster. Boy, was he fun to watch, too. He covered ground like a gazelle at times, allowing Williams to be even more creative with how he used Taylor. He asked Taylor to do things that no other safety could do. I love the Xs and Os of the game; it's why I still enjoy writing about football. And Taylor was a guy who changed the X portion of the game. Oh, yeah, he could also hit a little bit, too. In case anyone hadn't noticed.
Years ago, as a kid in Cleveland, I rooted for a similar safety named Don Rogers. The guy had a huge impact on the Browns' defense, part of the Dawgs. He had speed; he could hit and he changed games with big plays. Then he died at a young age of a cocaine overdose, shortly before Len Bias did the same.
Rogers was just starting his ascent, like Taylor. For years, even now, I wonder how good he could have been. Now I'll wonder the same about Taylor.
It's very sad.
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