Redskins Rally Around Taylor

Sean Taylor, 24, was injured in a Nov. 11 loss to Philadelphia, and had missed the past two games, including Sunday's loss in Tampa.
Sean Taylor, 24, was injured in a Nov. 11 loss to Philadelphia, and had missed the past two games, including Sunday's loss in Tampa. (2006 Photo By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
By Jason Reid and Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Washington Redskins coaches and players spent an anguished day yesterday waiting to learn whether safety Sean Taylor would survive the gunshot wound he suffered at his Miami home.

The team suspended its normal day-after-a-game routine, and most players quietly headed home after a midday meeting with Coach Joe Gibbs and team chaplain Brett Fuller. "It's one of those things that happens in your family and your heart breaks," Gibbs said. "It's a tragic thing that took place. It kind of takes your breath away."

Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach-defense, called it "a pretty long, difficult day for all of us." He fought back tears as he talked about his relationship with Taylor, 24, who remained in critical condition at a Miami hospital.

"I think I've been documented many, many times on how I feel about him personally. My admiration for him and the closeness that he and I have," said Williams, who has publicly supported Taylor during his legal and on-field troubles.

The Redskins (5-6) have lost three consecutive games and dropped four of their last five, but football was the least of their concerns on the day after a wrenching 19-13 loss to Tampa Bay.

"I know I wouldn't do a very good job of trying to explain to y'all how we feel," Gibbs told reporters. "I know all of our fans out there are praying. If I tried to say anything further, to describe how everyone around here feels, I don't think I could do a very good job of it. All of us are emotional right now."

Said Williams: "Most people came into work today thinking about how to get over a tough loss, a real hard-fought loss down in Tampa, but things like this put things into perspective in a hurry. I haven't had much sleep, and as a father, as a coach, as anybody, you don't like getting those very, very early morning calls with news like that.

"Coach Gibbs spoke very well on how we as an organization feel about Sean. . . . Any of the guys I get to coach and be around, I've always thought of them as one of mine. And obviously with him being the first draft choice that I was involved with bringing here, he's always been even a little bit more closer in my heart on that."

As they waited for updates on Taylor's condition, teammates stressed that Taylor's public persona does not match the teammate they know. They said he is a different person from the young player who seemed to routinely get into trouble.

"Since coming here and meeting Sean back in April, he has embraced me," middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "We have had some conversations about football and about things in life. From the Sean I know, I see a player and a person who has grown so much. You have heard things about Sean, being standoffish, but he hadn't been like that with me at all."

Before flying to Miami with a team contingent that included team owner Daniel Snyder and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, running back Clinton Portis reflected on how insignificant all of that controversy seemed at Redskins Park yesterday.

"You think back to times and how much he took for everything, every missing camp, missing this, not being around for this," said Portis, also Taylor's teammate at the University of Miami. "You come to the realization all that means nothing now. He's fighting for his life."

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