By Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Buoyed by an inspirational speech from Sean Taylor's father and a visit with some of their teammate's family members and girlfriend, the Washington Redskins returned to work yesterday at Redskins Park.
Pedro Taylor had asked owner Daniel Snyder if he could address the team in the wake of his son's death, and Snyder sent his private plane to Miami to pick up the family members. Taylor urged the 5-6 team to fight as hard as possible to reach the postseason.
"When Mr. Taylor stood up and said, 'Go win this next five and make it to the playoffs,' " team chaplain Brett Fuller said, "you felt a surge in the room that he almost gave his permission to play well."
Jackie Garcia, who was in the house with Sean Taylor and their 18-month-old daughter when he was shot, echoed Pedro Taylor's remarks about the importance of football and family in her boyfriend's life. "She just really spoke about cherishing your family while they are here and not taking a moment with your family for granted," linebacker London Fletcher said.
As Pedro Taylor told Redskins players about his son's love for football, linebacker Khary Campbell said he was immediately struck by the similarities between father and son, both in looks and mannerisms. The father's poise and composure reminded players of their friend as Pedro Taylor stayed focused despite his grief in a room full of strangers. "It was just showing us where Sean got his strength from," defensive lineman Demetric Evans said.
"He was great," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said of Pedro Taylor. "I don't think I could have that kind of courage."
The workday always begins with a full team meeting for the Redskins, but yesterday, rather than discuss the Buffalo Bills, Sunday's opponent at FedEx Field, or any football strategy, Gibbs spoke about the challenge at hand. Snyder, who was with Taylor's family at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami after the shooting, explained how their teammate fought to live, and gave them details about Taylor's funeral, which will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Florida International University in Miami.
Fuller, who has counseled players this week, said a prayer for Taylor, his family and the team, and shared his thoughts on Taylor's faith. Tailback Clinton Portis, who has known Taylor for seven years, since their time together at the University of Miami, spoke about his love for his friend. Portis, who became choked up, talked about other teammates who have died, and, as part of the Redskins' contingent at the hospital Monday, explained the bond between team officials and Taylor's family.
"Clinton talked about Sean and Sean's family and how Mr. Snyder and the family were all kind of together down there going through everything together as they experienced it firsthand," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "It kind of gave us a little peace of mind just to hear that everyone was together."
Gibbs broke the meeting about 9 a.m., and he and Snyder met with Taylor's family in Gibbs's office while the players milled about. At about 9:15 they were back in the auditorium, and for the next 10 minutes Pedro Taylor commanded the room. Taylor, the chief of police of Florida City, Fla., explained how deeply his son cared for his teammates, going back to the day the father and son were first in the auditorium after Taylor was drafted fifth overall in the 2004 draft.
At one point, Gibbs halted the meeting for 20 minutes, giving players the chance to greet the family.
"I definitely did have a moment with [Pedro Taylor] and I gave him a hug," safety Pierson Prioleau said. "We wanted to let him know that we all love Sean and we're here with him and we're all going to be together through this."
The afternoon schedule was cut short, as Gibbs condensed the meetings.
"Nothing was normal about today," said Fletcher, one of the team leaders. "Nothing was really normal. We had the meetings, but it wasn't the normal type of meeting, so to speak. Practice wasn't the same feeling. We tried to make it feel the same as best possible but . . . I know I found myself thinking about Sean, and imagining him out on the football field playing free safety for us."
Gibbs took the team onto the field for walk-throughs and practice, getting them back into their usual routine. "You get a chance to do something you're supposed to be doing again -- playing football, and coaching it, too," Gibbs said. "So I think practice was the best of what happened today as far as getting our minds off things."
After practice a media throng awaited the players, who then showered and headed home around 5 p.m., their first sad day back at work behind them.
"It's definitely hard when you've had the morning we had, and the week that we've had," Evans said, "Losing Sean, it's always going to be a hard thing, and it's something you have to take one day at a time. But he'll never be forgotten, and he'll always be missed."