If you knew him, you'd like him. If you knew Fred Taylor, you wouldn't question his commitment or the severity of his injury or the pain he is feeling for the time he has lost to injury and what it has meant to his team.
Taylor is one of football's sad stories, about a kid loaded with talent and an innocent naivete who fell victim to an unscrupulous agent and lost millions of dollars that was supposed to be the foundation of his and his family's future. That money, about $3 million, disappeared in a cloud of broken trust, and two years ago Taylor told of how the betrayal was even more painful than the thought of all the money he had lost.
Since after his rookie season, 1998, when long runs and touchdowns came with almost frightening ease, professional football has been a struggle for Taylor. Even last season, when Taylor rallied to post the best stats of his career and literally carried the Jaguars on his back for half a season, he was criticized for the three games he missed at the start of the season. They called him "Fragile." Aren't we all?
These days, as the games pass with Taylor on the sideline, he struggles with the thought of more loss. His team needs him, but there is nothing he can do about that. "Fragile" has been replaced by stronger words of criticism. And the contract his betrayer, Tank Black, negotiated in '98, continues to dog him. Incentives other agents would tell you are suspiciously excessive, will cost Taylor about $2 million this season.
If you knew that, knew Taylor's contract, you would never question his desire to be on the field. If you knew it all, you'd only feel compassion.
Here's "10 things" the Jaguars have to do to beat the Browns this Sunday.
- Get ready to rumble--There are those games that require special mental preparation. This is one of them.
- Focus on football--The worst thing you can do to a team is beat them. That's your revenge.
- Sack the quarterback--Like you never have before.
- Run the ball--Oh, yeah, the old standard, but it never applies more than it does in Cleveland in December. Run for a hundred yards and win. It's that simple.
- Protect Brunell--Aside from the obvious reasons, let's not forget the Jaguars quarterback is at the center of the controversy between these two teams. Protecting him must also be at the center of the Jaguars' efforts.
- No talk, just action--Words aren't worth 15 yards.
- Stop the run--That would force Tim Couch to throw, and Couch is the AFC's worst-rated third-down passer.
- Make a play on special teams--It sure helps.
- Say goodbye with style--It's more than just a grudge game; it's the Jaguars' last-ever AFC Central game.
- "Be savage again"--With apologies to NFL Films, why not?