The Darrell Taylor situation is a concerning one for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll shared on Monday that the Seahawks second-round pick got an injection into his injured leg that will push back his potential return at least a couple more weeks.
This is a troublesome plot twist given Carroll said he expected Taylor back on the practice field following Seattle’s home win over Arizona on Nov. 19.
“I’ve been really optimistic and really hopeful throughout all of this and it just hasn’t quite hit like I wanted it to,” Carroll said Monday. “That was all kind of wishing and hoping based on seeing him run and workout. We just didn’t quite get there.”
Taylor’s injury was a stress fracture in his fibula that he played through during the 2019 season at Tennessee. He then had surgery to repair the fracture, causing him to miss the workouts at the NFL Combine. He still went to Indianapolis and was put through a full medical exam.
Here’s where things get dicey for the Seahawks. Seattle had the benefit of doing two sets of physicals on Taylor, once in Indy and once at an official pre-draft visit to team headquarters prior to the COVID-19 travel bans.
“With Darrell, it helped us that we were one of the few teams that were able to have our medical staff really get into it and put their hands on him and evaluate him further,” Seahawks GM John Schneider said the night Seattle drafted Taylor.
Carroll expressed confidence in Taylor’s progress that night as well.
“We were able to see his workouts here at the end of the time which was reassuring,” the coach said. “He really looked good in his workout, moving and jumping and cutting and all that kind of stuff. So that really did help us out when he did miss the rest of the combine time and all that.”
Seattle felt so comfortable with Taylor’s medicals that the franchise tabbed him as a can’t-miss player. Schneider said that they considered taking Taylor with the No. 27 overall pick before spending all of Day 2 trying to trade up in the second round. The Seahawks ultimately accomplished that goal and selected Taylor 48th overall.
Schneider added that they view his ceiling as one of the league’s best pass rushers, but that LEO skill set means nothing if Taylor can’t get on the field. It’s alarming that Taylor was working out prior to the draft, and yet he still doesn’t seem to be nearing a return.
Carroll hinted that the MRIs and imaging show Taylor’s leg is structurally sound and fully healed, but that it still doesn’t feel quite right to the rookie. That puts the team in a tough spot if team doctors are giving the green light and it’s Taylor who is balking.
“Ultimately he’s got to feel good about it,” Carroll said of Taylor progress from working out to football activities. “He knows the work he’s done, and he’s the one who knows what it feels like. They can take all the MRIs and pictures they want, but he’s the one who has to decide. We want him to be right and feel right, and that’s why it’s taken us to this point.
“The docs came up with something they felt could help him, and he chose to do that. We’re supporting him and waiting it out.”
When you revisit Schneider and Carroll’s draft night comments, it sure doesn’t sound like they are talking about a player who would need a redshirt season. Taylor himself said he felt "healthy as a horse" when he spoke to the media moments after being drafted. Carroll acknowledged on Monday that their hope was to have him back and playing a few weeks ago. Something has obviously gone awry over the last seven months.
With only four weeks left in the regular season, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Taylor will miss his entire rookie year. That means Seattle’s medical staff objectively missed on their pre-draft prognosis.
Should Taylor return in 2021 and enjoy a long, productive career chasing quarterbacks, we’ll look back at this season as the Seahawks wisely exercising patience in order to protect a coveted investment. If things go the other way, we’ll discuss this pick as a catastrophic and comprehensive organizational blunder.