An Enigma Cloaked In a Veil of Silence
You walk up to Sean Taylor's cubicle in the Redskins' Ashburn locker room and tell him you want to talk. He sees a notebook and a tape recorder and winces. He's not giving you anything.
When you persist, he says, "Have a nice day." But it doesn't come out like that. It's spoken in a cryptic, "Get-out-of-my-face" manner. To him, you're just another hater posing as a concerned journalist who wants to tell the real story of the most feared hitter in the NFL, the safety LaVar Arrington once christened, "The Grim Reaper."
You're not going to write that a 17-month-old baby girl named Jackie melts his heart, how fatherhood makes him feel like more of a mature, young man and less of the moody knucklehead who came into the league four years ago.
You're not going to write that his teammates love and respect him and not one -- not a single one among 35 you interviewed -- has a bad thing to say about him.
You try to tell him your intention is to learn why one of the game's most spectacular playmakers shut down one day and wouldn't let anyone in.
But he can't go there. He's not ready. When you call his agent and his father, they ask if you spoke with Sean first. When you tell them he won't agree to any interview of substance, his father says he'll call you back and doesn't, and Drew Rosenhaus says he has to honor his client's request and not talk either.
So, in the middle of his breakout season -- when he's picking off Brett Favre twice and setting his sights on Tom Brady tomorrow and everything is coming together for the 24-year-old safety -- teammates and coaches speak for him.
"You don't want to see the good in a person like Sean," Clinton Portis tells you. Portis, who sits next to Taylor and the other member of "The U" connection, wide receiver Santana Moss, knows Taylor as well as anyone in Washington. Well, as well as you can know Taylor.
"You don't want to understand the success or the pain he's went through to be where he is. In Sean's situation, there's been so much pain that when you step out here playing football is easy.
"What pain?" you ask.
"We don't know Sean's story," Portis said. "We don't know who crossed him in the past. You don't know if it came from him being here."
You know this about Sean Taylor. Whether anyone close to him wants to acknowledge it or not, he was on the road to being another Adam "Pacman" Jones. There were spitting incidents, one involving Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman in 2006, for which he was fined $17,000. The son of the Florida City, Fla., police chief also has trouble with the law.