Taylor Expresses Regret, Relief

sean taylor
Sean Taylor reports to Redskin Park on Sunday, saying: "I'm happy to be back." (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 1, 2005

Sean Taylor sat at the edge of a tree-lined strip of grass in a parking lot at Dulles Town Center, less than five miles from Redskins Park and about seven miles from his Ashburn home. Taylor, wearing loose gray sweatpants and untied sneakers with no socks, stretched one leg onto the pavement of the mall's restaurant row.

The Washington Redskins safety -- with face stubble and a mustache -- appeared relaxed Saturday despite legal issues that could halt his second pro season, imprison him for at least three years and cost him most of his rich NFL contract.

Although Taylor's black knit cap was pulled snugly over his braided hair, patrons at a nearby restaurant occasionally stared after recognizing the 6-foot-2, 231-pound safety sitting on the ground, giving his first interview since last year.

Today at Redskins Park, the Redskins will begin practice and Taylor -- who will be the most scrutinized player by the media and fans allowed to attend the afternoon session -- said he is excited about returning to the football field for the first time since the Redskins' regular season finale in January.

"That's kind of like a safe haven," said Taylor, who has changed his jersey number from 36 to 21. "When I'm on the field, that's almost a natural thing. That's what I do the best. I think that's where any player should be most comfortable."

Taylor, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft, arrived from Miami on Wednesday, and met with Coach Joe Gibbs on Saturday for a long discussion. "What he said to me made sense and made me feel good as far as the mistakes he's made," Gibbs said yesterday. "I'm not going to elaborate on what we talked about. But I thought it was a good conversation; it was a good coach-player conversation."

Taylor, 22, did not resemble an athlete who has avoided the Redskins' offseason workouts. Before meeting with Gibbs, Taylor passed a mandatory conditioning test. "He breezed that out there as far as running," Gibbs said. "He looks like he's in real good shape."

In a roughly 30-minute interview, Taylor occasionally cast himself as a victim, yet often expressed contrition.

"I think you're learning every day. People learn every day," said Taylor, wearing a plastic yellow "Livestrong" wristband from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "From being 2- and 3-year-old babies to 50 and 60 years old. They're still learning until the day they die. If you're not learning, you're not living.

"It would be wrong for me to look at my situation, and say: 'I haven't learned. It's not going to change me.' Of course, it's going to change you."

Taylor faces one felony count of aggravated assault with a firearm and one misdemeanor count of simple battery stemming from a June 1 confrontation in a Miami neighborhood. Miami-Dade prosecutor Mike Grieco has charged Taylor with pointing a gun at three men while he demanded the return of his two all-terrain vehicles, which allegedly were stolen. Taylor, who declined to discuss specifics of the case, has pleaded not guilty and refused a plea bargain.

Under Florida's stringent gun laws, Taylor faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of 16 years. His trial date is tentatively set for Sept. 12, one day after Washington's regular season opener against the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field. The trial appears likely to be delayed until after the season through continuances requested by Taylor's attorney, Edward Carhart. But following Taylor's arrest, the Redskins acquired three veteran safeties, apparently as a contingency for Taylor's absence.

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