Safety Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins' top pick in the 2004 NFL draft, was fined $25,000 by the NFL yesterday for leaving a mandatory rookie seminar in California earlier this month, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Taylor's fine was the steepest imposed against a rookie for leaving the four-day symposium, although the league could have fined Taylor $50,000, NFL sources said. Taylor left the meetings for a day and then returned.
In the past players have been fined $10,000 for failing to attend the entire seminar -- New York Giants running back Ron Dayne received that penalty in 1998, and San Diego quarterback Ryan Leaf was hit with the same fine in 2000. At the time, a $10,000 fine was the most allowed by the league's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association; it was raised to $50,000 in 2003, sources said.
The league spends $500,000 annually to hold the rookie event, which is conducted to educate new players on the potential risks and temptations of life in the NFL, particularly off the field. Most rookies are earning significant paychecks for the first time in their lives and are unaccustomed to the wealth, fame and distractions that come with being a professional athlete.
Taylor reportedly left the seminar early to keep from being evicted from his apartment in Florida -- he is a native of that state and played at the University of Miami -- and the NFL investigated the circumstances before settling on a fine.
NFL officials declined to comment on the penalty imposed against Taylor. Taylor's agent, Eugene Mato, did not return a phone call, and the Redskins' rookie was unavailable to comment.
Taylor was without an agent at the time of the seminar and may not have been fully aware of its import. Taylor fired his original agent, Drew Rosenhaus, two days after Washington chose him with the fifth pick overall in the draft in April, and he did not select new representatives until Tuesday, when he hired Mato and his partner, Jeff Moorad.
The delay in selecting an agent postponed the start of contract negotiations with the Redskins, who believe his combination of athleticism, speed and power will make him an immediate starter this season. However, Taylor and his agents are deep in negotiations with the Redskins now.
Washington Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato and Eric Schaffer, the team's salary cap manager, flew to California on Thursday to begin face-to-face discussions at Moorad's Newport Beach office. Taylor's father and Mato flew from Florida to attend the negotiations, which continued through last night.
Cerrato was set to come back to Washington on a red-eye flight last night, sources said, but Schaffer will fly to San Francisco along with Scott Parker, an agent from Moorad's office, in the morning to resume talks. Moorad and Cerrato will participate in those discussions by phone, and negotiations are likely to continue through Sunday night, with the goal of getting Taylor signed by Monday.
"We've had a busy couple of days and talked through the day [Thursday] and picked up again early [yesterday] morning and broke off talks" last night, Moorad said. "We've covered a lot of territory and formed a consensus on a number of key issues; nonetheless, there remain a number of issues we must still agree upon."
Washington will hold a three-day passing camp beginning Monday, and full training camp begins July 31. Taylor would be expected to participate in the passing camp but would not do so without a contract.
It likely will take a $14 million signing bonus and $20 million package to sign Taylor. Those figures are comparable to the contract given to last year's fifth overall pick, defensive back Terence Newman of Dallas. First-round picks have begun to sign with more regularity this week -- four of the top picks had inked contracts as of yesterday -- and Moorad said that the late start in talks with Washington did not put the sides too far behind a normal schedule, since the most intense negotiations usually take place just before the start of training camp.
Redskins Note: The Redskins are expected to announce a deal with tight end Chris Cooley, their third-round pick, by tomorrow. Sources said he has agreed to most of a four-year contract in principle, but team officials and Cooley's representative said the contract had not been completed as of yesterday.