By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2007
After one of the Washington Redskins' four losses in which they held a halftime lead this season, safety Sean Taylor maneuvered through a crowded locker room to reach quarterback Jason Campbell. Disappointed about the poor finish, Campbell was taking the loss hard, shouldering responsibility for another late-game letdown.
But seeing Taylor and hearing his words of encouragement brought a smile to Campbell's face at the difficult moment. The friends often helped to lift each other's spirits, and Taylor's generosity is what Campbell said he will miss most.
As the Redskins (5-6) continued preparing yesterday to host the Buffalo Bills (5-6) on Sunday at FedEx Field, Campbell focused on his work while he struggled to cope with the loss of Taylor, 24, who died of a gunshot wound Tuesday in Miami. In his first extended public comments about Taylor, Campbell said it was difficult to work in the wake of the tragedy, and he plans to honor Taylor's memory through his performance. Campbell lost more than a teammate and a friend. He said he lost "a brother."
"I took it really hard because he was like my brother," Campbell said. "Sean was a guy who would only communicate with very few people. I was lucky enough to be one of those people that he communicated with."
The Redskins have lost three in a row and four of five but still are in contention for an NFC wild-card berth. Campbell acknowledged he was concerned about the psyche of the team after the Redskins received the news they feared most -- that Taylor had died early Tuesday. Following the shooting, Campbell thought about what he could do to help his teammates while coping with his own grief.
Then, just as Taylor had helped him through tough times, Taylor's father, Pedro, and girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, provided Campbell and the Redskins with strength when they addressed the team before practice resumed Wednesday. "To hear Sean's daddy and his girlfriend come and speak to us . . . it gave us a lot of motivation and a lot of passion to go out and play as hard as we can for Sean for the rest of the season," Campbell said. "They want us to get into the playoffs. His daddy was real passionate about that.
"He said he was rooting for us and his girlfriend said she was rooting for us. They said the way for us to honor Sean was by honoring him by the way we play. Honor him by the way that we talk about him and always by just remembering Sean as our brother."
Both Taylor and Campbell were first-round draft picks (Taylor out of the University of Miami in 2004 and Campbell from Auburn in 2005), joining a franchise eager to return to prominence in Coach Joe Gibbs's second stint in Washington. Taylor permitted few people to enter his inner circle, the players said, and Campbell said he was honored that Taylor leaned on him at times, too.
"Sean was a good person," Campbell said. "People really didn't know Sean like I did . . . but he was a guy who was real passionate about everything that he did. He was a loving person. He always was very encouraging. After the game sometimes, he'd be the first person to walk up to you and tell you to keep playing and it's a team effort.
"After one game, sitting over there at my locker, I was kind of upset about the game. I just remember him coming over, giving me an encouraging word, saying: 'J, just keep your head up. You're doing great. Things are going to work out for us. Just keep doing what you're doing and things are going to turn.' He was always a guy that was very positive. He cared about other people and other players. A lot of people don't know that, but that's really the way Sean was."
Campbell and Taylor shared a passion for practice. They often remained on the field long after practice had ended, Campbell said, two young players honing their football skills and discussing life.
"I would drop back and he would want me to throw the long ball," Campbell said. "He would try to run to see how close he could get to intercepting it. He was just a tremendous athlete and a tremendous player. And Sean was a different person. He was doing great things in his life now. . . . He was maturing. He really turned his life into being a great man.
"That's what I really want people to know. That's just what I really want to say . . . just that Sean was a good person. He was a loving person. It's so unfortunate that this had to happen."
Redskins Notes: The team said it has not initiated discussions with the league about pushing back next Thursday's game against with the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field. The team does not plan to approach the league about altering its remaining schedule, according to Chris Helein, vice president of public relations. . . . Fullback Mike Sellers, who missed Sunday's 19-13 loss to Tampa Bay because of a back injury, sat out practice for the second consecutive day. Wide receiver James Thrash (ankle) and defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin (foot) also have not practiced this week. Thrash has missed the last two games. . . . Taylor's locker at Redskins Park has been covered with a sheet of Plexiglas. Its contents will remain untouched for the rest of the season. . . . The Washington Wizards will have a moment of silence for Taylor before tomorrow night's game with the Toronto Raptors at Verizon Center.