I knew Sean Taylor about as well as 95% of the other media types who have frequented Redskins Park for the past few years, which is to say not at all. There were the occasional group press conferences, usually at some point during training camp, where Taylor would playfully deflect our queries about all but on-field matters. When talking about playing safety he was smiling and expansive. Most other questions, ranging from his legal issues to his weight, were brushed aside with short non-answers.
A handful of times after games he would talk to the gathered media in the locker room, again focusing strictly on what happened on the field. Even those sessions ended well over a year ago. Last season, after he scooped up that blocked field goal against Dallas and returned it to put the Redskins into position to kick the game-winning field goal, a group gathered at his locker, but he simply dressed quietly and left. Good game or bad, the behavior was the same.
By all indications his persona with the press was just that. Behind closed doors with his teammates and coaches we hear of a great, funny, personable guy. The press and public got an occasional glimpse of this side of Sean Taylor, but the looks were brief and fleeting.
So we had to settle for knowing Sean Taylor, #21 for the Washington Redskins. For most of three years we saw flashes of greatness interspersed with some learning pains. This year the great plays became more frequent and the mistakes fewer and further between. He wasn't yet a truly great player, but he was well on his way t becoming one. Taylor was just 24 and his future was, to say the least, very bright.
And now that future no longer exists. After most of us went to bed on the heels of positive news about Taylor's potential for being able to recover, we woke up this morning with the news that Sean Taylor didn't make it.
Sad, tragic, horrible, senseless. There just isn't a word that fits.
I don't see how the Redskins can play on Sunday—then again, I don't see how they can't. This isn't the first time that a player has died during the season. I remember during the late 1960's a Detroit Lions player named Chuck Hughes had a heart problem, collapsed on the field during a game, and died shortly afterwards. In the 1950's, a Redskins player—I can't remember the name and I don't have a chance to look it up right now—died after being shot during the season. A college player, ironically one from the University of Miami, was gunned down in a parking lot about a year ago. In all of those cases, the ensuing game was played.
And not only do the Redskins have a game on Sunday, they have one four days later, a Thursday night game against the Bears. Normally the coaches would be working on two game plans this week. Now, it will be extremely challenging to come up with one.
It's too early to look at the long-term implications of this as far as the Redskins are concerned. Certainly, a short-term plan to replace Taylor on the field now has to turn into a long-term plan. The fifth overall pick in the draft just a few years ago is now gone in the worst possible way.
Finally, there is the crime aspect of this story. I think that this will develop into a huge story in the coming days and weeks. I'm not an expert on burglary by any stretch, but I do know that it's extremely rare for those who commit that crime to be armed. It's even more unusual for the perps to kick down a door and start firing shots. I have a suspicion that this is related to the incident that landed him in legal trouble in 2005, but that's just a feeling.
For now, though, the focus is on the loss of Taylor, the father, the son, the friend, the teammate. The side of Taylor that we didn't know is at the forefront on this day.