The player who seems likely to be the Redskins’ starting nose tackle in 2017 came out of retirement to sign with the team in January, although his retirement was so brief that not many people knew that Phil Taylor had decided to hang it up.
“I told somebody I was retired,” said Taylor, who had not played in an NFL game of any sort since November of 2014 before playing 12 snaps against the Ravens. “I mean, I didn’t come out with it [publicly] but I told somebody. But then the next, probably four days later my agent said that Washington wants to bring you in for a futures contract.”
He didn’t give it much thought. He signed the contract.
“What do I have to lose?” he said. “The last two and a half years I haven’t been doing anything so do what I’ve got to do to make the team.”
The Redskins had given Taylor a tryout during the 2016 season and while the word was that they liked what they saw, they did not offer him a contract during the season. But Jay Gruden knew Taylor well from the days when Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator and Taylor was with the Browns.
“I know what a force he can be at nose,” said Gruden. “He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain it.”
Taylor realized the importance of maintaining his body after the Browns let him go in 2015 and after the Broncos released him early in training camp in 2016. His regime includes weight lifting, massages, acupuncture, and yoga.
“Beach yoga,” said Taylor. He lives in Naples, Florida in the winter and he said that a regular yoga mat isn’t big enough for his 6-3, 343-lb. frame. He takes a king-sized bed comforter out with him to keep sand from getting all over him.
MORE REDSKINS: Must-see photos from Redskins vs. Ravens
It was hard for him to keep going at times. The tryout he got with the Redskins last year was the only one he had. He was thinking about becoming a high school coach in Ohio, where he also keeps a home. Then the Redskins called and he had new incentive to get into football shape.
He’s not there yet. His mantra is to keep working every day to get better. Gruden likes what he has seen but he needs to see more.
“He’s got to play some more plays and he’s got to put in day after day after day,” said Gruden.
So Taylor still has to earn his spot. But considering that his main competition for the nose tackle spot are Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis, who have zero combined NFL snaps, it seems a pretty safe bet that he will navigate these last few weeks until the season opener and line up with the first team against the Eagles.