By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
London Fletcher learned Jason Taylor would become his teammate when a news ticker scrolled across his television screen Sunday night.
First, the news revealed the Washington Redskins were interested in Taylor. It didn't take long before the scroll confirmed the team had acquired him. In the span of a few minutes, a day Coach Jim Zorn labeled a "tragedy" was transformed by headline news.
"It created a lot of buzz," said Fletcher, a linebacker. "You don't often add a perennial Pro Bowl, all-pro player. I mean, this guy was the NFL defensive player of the year two years ago on a team that didn't do very well."
Teammates shared Fletcher's excitement on the second day of training camp, contagious optimism flowed through Redskins Park just a little more than 24 hours after resounding disappointment resulted from veteran defensive end Phillip Daniels tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Fletcher dubbed the trade "Christmas in July."
Besides filling a 276-pound hole left by Daniels's injury, Taylor's entrance reaffirmed confidence in the team's defense. As much as the addition bolsters the Redskins on the field, it also heightens the team's spirits after the devastation of Sunday.
"Losing Phillip was a big loss for us. That's one of our starters, one of our leaders," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "To get a guy like Jason coming in, I think he can be a good fit for us. He's a smart guy, a guy who plays hard and has fun."
Washington found out about Taylor during a team meeting. The word started to spread among players before Zorn told the team.
"You can see guys saying, 'Okay, it's not a scrub coming in,' " Washington said. "You're talking about a future Hall of Famer. You're definitely excited about it, to see what he's done throughout his career."
Taylor sounded similarly excited about joining a team that reached the playoffs last season. Taylor's 2007 season, his 11th with the Miami Dolphins, was marred by a 1-15 record. He said he looked forward to playing for a team capable of compiling leads and thus provide Taylor ample opportunity to pressure the quarterback. As the Dolphins' roster undergoes a major rebuilding effort, Taylor recited names of Washington's established veterans with whom he will share a huddle.
"There's a lot of good players here," Taylor said. "You look at the secondary with Shawn Springs and [Fred] Smoot. And London Fletcher is just a ballplayer. . . . Marcus Washington, I know he's a good ballplayer. There's a lot of guys who I obviously don't know yet that I've got to get to know. But I like what I see."
Twenty-four hours earlier, few Redskins expected this type of move.
"I had a little inkling, whispers about the possibility of a trade," Fletcher said. "But you never know with those things."
Smoot, who played for the Redskins from 2001 to 2004 before coming back last season, has seen marquee players arrive in and depart Ashburn. Taylor remains one of the transcendent figures in football, and his off-the-field popularity could draw even more spotlight onto the team.
"It ain't like the Washington Redskins need any more star power," Smoot said, "but he brings a lot."
Smoot added the only person who might be upset about the move is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who also is not shy about welcoming headliners onto his roster.
Fletcher agreed with Smoot. Although players at Redskins Park were excited about Taylor preparing to wear a Redskins uniform, Fletcher laughed at the difference between his reaction and what he anticipated of his NFC East rivals' reactions to the news flash on the television screen.
"I'm sure it energizes the city and all the Washington Redskins fans," Fletcher said. "And maybe some opponents in the NFC East were like, 'Man!' But we're definitely excited about it."