By Mark Maske and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 9, 2006
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he has contacted league officials regarding the ejection of Redskins safety Sean Taylor from Saturday's playoff victory in Tampa Bay and is certain Taylor will not be suspended for Saturday's NFC semifinal game at Seattle. Game officials said that Taylor spit in the face of Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman, issued Taylor a 15-yard penalty and ejection, and did not penalize Pittman for a retaliatory slap to Taylor's head.
Upshaw said yesterday that he has discussed the matter with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and will speak to him again today after the league investigates the incident internally. Taylor, who has declined to discuss the ejection with the media and has incurred several fines during his brief career, told teammates and coaches that he did not spit on Pittman. But Upshaw said, "I don't think it's alleged," and expects the NFL to levy a significant fine.
"I know Paul does not want to take a player off the field in the playoffs," Upshaw said. "I know Paul, and I'm confident he won't do that. In fact, I know he won't do that. But I also know he'll hit him with a stiff fine, and we'll also have to look at his past history. I can certainly tell you the league office is aware of that."
Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said the league had no comment yesterday but plans to address the matter this week.
A league source familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains under consideration, said that Taylor likely faces a significant fine, but probably will not be suspended. Nothing is certain because the deliberations are not complete, but league officials do not seem to feel the circumstances of the case warrant a suspension, the source said.
Taylor already has a reputation as a vicious hitter and premier playmaker. He has been in disciplinary trouble since being drafted fifth overall out of the University of Miami in April 2004. He was fined $25,000 for missing part of a mandatory rookie symposium that summer, accrued $17,500 in fines for unnecessary roughness penalties on consecutive weekends, suffered repeated fines for violating the league's uniform standards and was accused of spitting by Cincinnati wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but the league found insufficient evidence to punish him for that.
Taylor was arrested for driving under the influence as a rookie -- he was later acquitted -- and faces a Jan. 17 trial date on felony weapons charges for allegedly pulling a gun on individuals he believed stole two all-terrain vehicles from him in Miami.
"I'll be arguing that he hasn't done this before, or at least it hasn't been proven that he has," said Upshaw, who will also represent Pittman's interests in the matter. "I'll be saying, 'He's done some crazy [stuff] before, but not this crazy [stuff].' I've got nothing else I can argue. He's going to get a fine. There's no doubt about that. There's no room for that in the game. But he won't get taken off the field."
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said that if Taylor did indeed spit, then "we can understand someone getting kicked out of the game." Several players said they are optimistic Taylor will face a fine, rather than a suspension, but the risks of such actions are too high with so much at stake.
"I think that's a lesson most of the guys need to learn for the playoffs," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "Right now I don't think we're deep enough on offense or defense where we can afford to lose any of our best players. We just can't do it. . . . I hope he doesn't get suspended or anything."
Maske reported from East Rutherford, N.J.