By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was fined $71,764 by the NFL yesterday but not suspended in connection with his June plea bargain on a felony gun charge from last year.
Taylor, 23, will forgo four of his 17 game checks from the 2005 season for violating the Personal Conduct Policy, the league announced. He earned a base salary of $305,000 last year.
The organization expressed relief that Taylor would not have to sit out any games, while Taylor and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declined to comment.
"I'm just glad it's behind us," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "I'm certainly glad he's going to be with us all year. He's had a great camp so far and I'm just glad it's behind us."
Taylor has a history of league sanctions, beginning with his departure from the mandatory rookie symposium shortly after being drafted fifth overall from Miami in 2004, but will have a chance to earn back a portion of this fine if he complies with specified behavioral requirements, as part of the settlement with the league. There will not be an appeal involved, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, as Taylor and his representatives were involved throughout this process, as were team officials.
Taylor's yearlong legal saga ended June 1 when he entered a plea of no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery charges in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, stemming from an incident in which he was accused of brandishing a gun during a confrontation over an all-terrain vehicle he said had been stolen from him. The plea agreement included the dismissal of felony assault charges and no prison time for Taylor, and seemed to represent a favorable outcome in a case in which Taylor faced up to 46 years in prison as a result of his arrest. The Redskins maintained throughout the offseason that they planned no disciplinary action.
The safety, considered by many to be on the cusp of stardom, was fined $17,000 during the playoffs last season for spitting on Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman. During his rookie season, Taylor was fined $25,000 for skipping the rookie symposium, was suspended by the team for one game that season following his arrest for DUI (he was later acquitted) and also accrued $17,500 in fines for unnecessary roughness penalties on consecutive weekends.
Several teammates said privately that they believed Taylor's penalty was too stiff in this case, although the majority of Taylor's income comes from bonuses not affected by the penalty, including a $7.2 million signing bonus. He also can trigger clauses escalating his salary to roughly $9 million should he make the Pro Bowl, a distinct possibility should he stay healthy this season.
"This fine is no fun for Sean, I'm sure, and that's probably a considerable amount of salary," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "But I'll tell you what, we're a different team with him. He's one of those players that brings an intensity out there that really elevates the play of our defense. To have him out there is huge."
Starting defensive end Phillip Daniels said: "This [decision] is a blessing for us. We need him back there. Anytime you can get a safety like Sean back there that everybody's afraid of, it makes a big difference for your defense. You notice when he's not in the games they try to go downfield on us, and when he's in there teams tend to not want to go toward the middle where he's at. It's a big blessing that he won't miss any games."
Taylor became a starter early in his rookie season, and quickly gained a reputation as a fierce competitor. He finished second on the team with four interceptions that season, and was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl. Last season, Taylor peaked for the stretch run, making a huge fourth-down tackle in a Week 14 victory at Arizona, returning a fumble for a touchdown against Philadelphia (Week 17) and scoring again on a 51-yard fumble return the following week in a first-round playoff win at Tampa Bay.
"He has the ability to change the game," Brunell said, "and it's amazing what one play can do for the attitude of the whole defense. He brings that time and time again, and he's still a young player that's only going to get better and better over time. He has an opportunity to be one of the best in the league."