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It'll be pregame decision


Fred Taylor will walk onto the field at The Coliseum a couple of hours before game time on Sunday, and Taylor will test his gimpy ankle. Then, it'll be decision time, again, and it's not nearly as simple as fans might think.

Taylor will make a call between what is smart and what is dumb. The easy decision is to play; the tough one is to sit the game out.

Five years after the tag was hung on him, he is still battling its stigma. He hates it. He won't fully admit it, but there's no denying the edge in his voice. He hates it.

"I paid attention to it and it made me stronger," Taylor said of the "Fragile Fred" tag that has dogged his every injury. No matter what he does, or how well he plays, the tag is there waiting for him at the next injury.

This time, it's a sprained ankle. It caused him to miss the Pittsburgh game. Then, after making it back into the lineup two weeks in a row, he re-injured the ankle and missed last Sunday's Baltimore game.

"It helped me realize who was going to be there for me; who I can depend on. It taught me a lot about myself; what I should eat, getting into workouts earlier. The partying, the money when you first get here make you forget what got you here; taking care of yourself," Taylor said.

He's trying now to take care of an ankle that is vulnerable to re-injury. He wants the sprain to be fully healed before he returns to action because Taylor is thinking about down the road; he's thinking about being healthy and ready to roll at playoff time. The problem is that every decision to sit out is met by more criticism and, clearly, he is sensitive to it.

"I'm not going to rule anything out," he said when asked on Thursday if he thinks he'll be in the lineup in Nashville on Sunday. "I'm getting better every day. I'll get more progress tomorrow, rest it on Saturday and see how I feel on Sunday. If I'm not able to play, I won't go. I'd hate to re-aggravate it and then I'm in and out."

This is a game Taylor doesn't want to miss. The Tennessee Titans is the team Taylor wants to beat the most, a feeling that goes back to the Jaguars' three losses to the Titans in the 1999 season, the last of which occurred in the AFC title game. Taylor struggled for a long time to accept that fate. A part of him never will.

"You think how close you got. I think about it a little bit. We were 30 minutes away (from the Super Bowl) and we haven't been there since, and that team is the reason why," Taylor said.

He'd love to walk out onto the turf in Nashville on Sunday and have the ankle tell him it's a go. He'd love to beat the Titans, just as Taylor did last season with a one-yard touchdown run with nine seconds to play in the game.

What people didn't know then is that Taylor played the first six games of last season with a broken toe.

"When people talk about Fred Taylor, I want them to say he's tougher than people thought. There are a lot of things I don't tell people; I don't tell the trainers," he said.

What will Taylor say on Sunday? Go or no go?

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