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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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Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

While many expect Dwayne Haskins to be Washington's quarterback in Week 1, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to formally name a starting quarterback and has preached "pure competition" between Haskins and Kyle Allen.

The battle for the job has the potential to take an interesting twist in the coming weeks if veteran Alex Smith is able to return from the active/PUP list. In a media session with local reporters on Monday, Rivera said Smith is "going to be in the throes of this competition" if he's able to return.

However, even if Smith is healthy enough to compete for the starting job, Haskins believes he's the best man for the job. 

"All respect for everyone in that room, but I feel like I give us the best opportunity," Haskins told Julie Donaldson, Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content. "I look forward to showing it."


Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie but really started to show flashes of his potential towards the end of the season before an ankle injury prematurely ended his first season as a pro. Over his final six quarters, Haskins finished with 394 passing yards on a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and zero turnovers. 

Since Rivera took over as head coach in January, he's challenged Haskins to take command of the job, and the quarterback has responded. Haskins has dropped close to 20 pounds this offseason and said he is in the best shape of his life. He's spent the bulk of his offseason training and learning from numerous NFL stars, most notably Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr.

Although Rivera has yet to name Haskins the starter, he's taken notice of the 23-year-old's progress and has publicly praised him for it. In a media session last week, several comments the head coach made sounded as if he was ready to move in the direction with Haskins as QB1.

While Haskins and Smith may be directly competing with one another, the two have a strong relationship.

Haskins has said multiple times how much of a help Smith was to him as a rookie. On Monday, Haskins said he looks at Smith as a "mentor" to him.

"He's a great teammate," Haskins said. "Somebody in the meeting room that we look for answers and questions and everything he's been through in his long tenure as a professional quarterback in the NFL. He's someone I kind of look to as a mentor in that sense."


Smith's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he's even close to playing after suffering the gruesome leg injury he had in November 2018 is already impressive enough within itself. And of the three quarterbacks, Smith is by far the most proven and experienced.

But Washington is currently in a rebuild, and Rivera has said multiple times that the 2020 season will be crucial in determining who he sees as core players on his roster. So, starting a 35-year-old Smith over Haskins, a second-year player who the team invested a first-round pick in just one year ago, wouldn't make much sense.

Yet, if Smith does end up being healthy enough to compete for the job, Haskins is ready to embrace the challenge.

"I'm extremely happy and excited for Alex. Having watched him train last year and him just getting into the position to try and play this year...I can tell how much work he's put in," Haskins said. "I'm excited for him. Hopefully he gets back to where he needs to be, and I look forward to competing with him and everything of that nature."

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Dan Snyder's attorney raises conspiracy questions with defamation suit

Dan Snyder's attorney raises conspiracy questions with defamation suit

Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder wants to clear the air about a series of slanderous rumors that his attorney believes were part of a wider campaign to spread misinformation and defame his character. 

"There's a lot of things going on in Washington right now regarding the club and there are people that may have some motives to falsely attack Mr. Snyder," attorney Joe Tacopina, who represents Snyder, said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington. 

The center of the issue comes from an article that ran on meaww.com - a website owned by India-based company Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide - alleging Snyder had personal involvement with financier Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who killed himself while in prison last year. 

"Dan Snyder has nothing to do with [Epstein] and had nothing to do with him," Tacopina said of the article. 

That article, shared repeatedly via social media, deeply bothered the Snyder family and now the owner wants to do everything in his power to clear his name. 

In the process, Tacopina alleges that a former employee was spreading the disinformation at the behest of a financial backer. Snyder is taking legal action against former Washington employee Mary Ellen Blair in an attempt to prove she intentionally spread lies and was told to do so by a third party. 

"We believe there are obviously people behind that had their own purposes for doing it," Tacopina said. The lawsuits aim to "to uncover who’s behind the scenes, who’s pulling the strings."


In a New York Times report, Blair is connected to Dwight Schar, one of the Washington minority owners looking to sell his shares in the team. The article contends that Blair dealt with financial hardships and lives in a building that Schar's daughter's real estate development company owns.

Asked if the misinformation and defamation lawsuits have anything to do with Washington's minority partners looking to sell 40 percent of the team, Tacopina would not speculate, but he did respond. 

"I think common sense will sort of play out. I think the evidence in this case will present us with who’s behind this," Tacopina said. 

Tacopina has an impressive and high-profile legal track record. He worked with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill to end his decade-long legal saga and multiple jail visits. He also lists Alex Rodriguez and Jay-Z as clients. 

This looks to be just the beginning of a series of legal actions that could unclose a significant conspiracy against the Washington Football Team owner. Then again, it could be nothing. The legal process will play out.


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