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Looking back at the Redskins' first game following Sean Taylor's tragic death

Looking back at the Redskins' first game following Sean Taylor's tragic death

The tragic death of Sean Taylor in 2007 was a heartbreaking moment for many inside and outside the Redskins organization. Taylor was an immensely talented safety, but more so he was a close friend, role model and member of Washington's football family.

What made the following days even more difficult for the Redskins players and coaches was that there was still football to be played even as they dealt with their enormous grief. Just five days after Taylor was killed, the Redskins were scheduled to take on the Buffalo Bills in a Week 13 matchup.

In the newest Sports Uncovered Podcast from NBC Sports titled "Sean Taylor, The NFL Superstar We Didn't Get To Know," numerous Redskins players, coaches, former college teammates and more shared stories of their experiences with Sean Taylor, reactions to his death and the legacy he has left on the NFL today. That included a reflection on what it was like to take the field so soon after the tragic event.


From those who were there, it was a day filled with emotions like none other. December 2, 2007 was not just another Sunday, but rather a chance for the Redskins to honor a man they loved greatly.

Days before the game, those in the organization were understandably focused on anything but football. Taylor's death was sudden and something no one could have seen coming. Joe Gibbs was the head coach at the time, and the Hall-of-Famer remembers seeing a change in the locker room as the player's dealt with the shock and sadness.

“It was a very emotional week, nobody had even been through anything like that," Gibbs said. "We missed him. You could see it in the player’s eyes. It was hard to get them back after we lost Sean.”


Despite the emotions the team was dealing with, the Redskins would take the field on Sunday. Through all the pain and heartbreak, many saw the game as an opportunity to honor Taylor. By going out and competing, they were carrying on their teammate's legacy.

“Everybody came together and tried to elevate their level of play to ‘what would Sean do?’ How would Sean play in this moment?” former Redskins running back Clinton Portis said.

The most touching moment of the contest came on the first play from scrimmage for the Washington defense. Taking the field, the Redskins only sent 10 men out, leaving the last spot on the unit empty for Sean Taylor.

It was an idea that was created by former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and team owner Dan Synder. Once the gesture was proposed to the entire team, it became something that unified the organization in the wake of tragedy and sent chills throughout the stadium.

“Once we decided to do that, it was the most unbelievable rallying cry among those guys to know they were doing this for Sean," Williams said. 

“It makes me kind of tear up right now just remembering how emotional that moment was. I couldn’t talk. I was so choked up, again really hard to believe," voice of the Redskins Larry Michael said about the day. "At that point it was hard to believe that all of this had happened. It was just so tragic, it was just so tragic that he was gone. And the fans were just, just devastated.”

Stepping foot on the field that Taylor used to shine on, December 2, 2007, was not an easy day for the Redskins. But as sports so often do, football helped aid Washington during the grieving process. Though painful, that game allowed his teammates and friends to pay tribute to a member of their family and show that even though he was no longer on the field with them, his presence would be felt forever. 

There only was, and will ever be, one Sean Taylor. 

“This was visible evidence of what he meant to all of us and that nobody will ever be able to replace him on the field," Williams said.

Listen to the full episode of Sports Uncovered's Sean Taylor: The NFL Superstar We Didn't Get to Know, click here.

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Brian Mitchell says an open-minded convo is needed on Redskins' name: 'In this life, things change'

Brian Mitchell says an open-minded convo is needed on Redskins' name: 'In this life, things change'

On Wednesday, it was reported that investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion have asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate their business relationships with the Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its name.

The news came in the midst of an increase in pushback toward the franchise as demand for racial justice swells across the country. Early Thursday, former Redskins running back and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell spoke with Richard Graves of Sky Sports News about the issue. Mitchell stated that he believes change is going to come.

"Eventually, the way things seem to be rolling now, it's inevitable," Mitchell said.

Since his statements, the issue has only escalated. FedEx, which holds the naming rights to the Redskins stadium, released a statement saying “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name." Others around the sports world have also commented on the issue, and Nike has removed all Redskins merchandise from its site.


Amid the ever-growing movement, recent actions have only confirmed Mitchell's beliefs, rather than surprised him.

The main reason he believes this is the normal course is due to the major brands that are now involved. To Mitchell, wealth has become a determining factor in what changes get made in America.

“Nothing happens in our country unless someone’s money is affected," Mitchell told NBC Sports Washington. "When you see that start to happen, then you see things start to happen. I think immediately when I started hearing that thing I felt that somebody was going to say something.”

However, FedEx being the first to speak out was something Mitchell didn't fully expect to see so quickly. Not only because the company sponsors the Redskins stadium, and holds a deal with them through 2025, but because FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith owns a minority stake in the Redskins. 

That decision by a brand so intertwined with the team for years is what has Mitchell thinking things are only beginning.

“I think when you see things like that, you have to believe that something is moving now in the direction that we think it would be moving," Mitchell said. “If they’re starting to stay stuff, if they felt the pressure to say something, I have to believe that somebody else will feel the pressure as well.”

While companies speaking out is a start, others with power will ultimately control the decision. Namely, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who has been outspoken in the past that the name is not something that is going to be changed, pointing to the long history of the franchise. Mitchell understands that point of view, but also feels that the name isn't what should represent the success.

He brings up a question he's asked time and time again surrounding the debate over the name.

“Do you cheer for the name or for the overall franchise, or do you cheer for players, cheer for the pride and all that type of things?" Mitchell said.

“Last time I saw people buying jerseys, I saw people buying jerseys with people's last names on the back of the jersey," Mitchell said. "Normally, what's on the back of the jersey is what people represent.”

In the end, that's what Mitchell believes it comes down to. Changing the name is not about tarnishing the legacy of the players and teams that have passed through Washington, but rather showing acceptance to those who are offended by the term.

Like in the past, life changes. As people grow and learn, holding on to the way things were in the past isn't what Mitchell believes to be right.

“Everybody wasn’t offended. But guess what? Those words left. You stopped using those words," Mitchell said “If something is offensive, we have to get to the point where we think of that all the same. In this life, things change, whether we want it or not sometimes. But I’ve always been told by my coaches when I played sports, you have to adjust. I think the same thing has to happen in life.” 

So, how exactly will this change come about? For Mitchell, who has dealt with this discussion since he joined the team in 1990, the same formula he preached back then needs to be enacted now. People need to come together with an open mind and a willingness to communicate, something he's seen the country struggle with constantly.

“I said then that what needs to happen is you need to have adults to sit down, and have a conversation. An educated, mature conversation, and then come up with a decision," Mitchell said. “You don’t go into the decision with a closed mind. You don’t go into a conversation with a closed mind. If you go into it with an open mind and just listen.”

No matter what comes in the future, Mitchell has seen enough to know the current state won't remain the same. As he said earlier in the day, there's no avoiding what is to come.

“It seems to be inevitable that something is going to happen," Mitchell said. 

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Nike removes Redskins name, apparel from its website

Nike removes Redskins name, apparel from its website

Nike was one of three companies to reportedly have received a letter recently from investors asking that it sever ties with the Washington Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Another of those companies, FedEx, responded Thursday by formally requesting that the team change its name. Nike and the third company, PepsiCo, have yet to respond, but there is a major omission from the Nike website that maybe hints at what's to come.


Nike, the NFL's official gameday uniform supplier, is no longer allowing customers to purchase Washington apparel from its website. The NFL page has every team listed on the left sidebar except Washington. Furthermore, its shopping filters also omit Washington and its search function pulls up other teams but no results for Washington.

It's unclear when Nike made this change to its website. AdWeek reported Wednesday that investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion sent letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo last Friday.

In its request on Thursday, FedEx said, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.“

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