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Taylor toughens up


It may have been the most impressive performance of Fred Taylor's career.

What? The 119 yards rushing? The 13-yard long run? The 3.7 yards-per-carry average? No, no; the 32 rushing attempts on a sore knee and a sore thigh.

Taylor proved something in Giants Stadium Sunday that will quiet his critics. Taylor proved he is more than a running back who has talent. He proved he's also a running back who has grit.

"I definitely respect what he did," coach Jack Del Rio said of Taylor's effort against the Jets.

The guy was hurt, folks. He played hurt. "Fragile Fred?" Not any longer.

OK, one such game doesn't make Fred Taylor Jim Taylor, but it was Fred's 27th consecutive start, which is the longest such streak of his career and it canceled a lot of the doubt that was surfacing last week as Taylor spoke somewhat ambivalently about his chances of playing.

Frankly, judging by Taylor's comments last week, there was reason to worry the Jaguars running back might fold his tent for the somewhat-meaningless late-season game. After all, he was coming off a game in which he sat out the game-deciding final drive due to his leg injuries.

But Taylor responded this past Sunday with the grit of a true champion. His 32 rushing attempts represent his biggest workload of the season, and what that says is that he can not only play hurt, but play well hurt.

Now, he faces the challenge to do it week in and week out. This is week 13. Everybody's hurt and it'll stay that way until the end of the season. The tough guys keep playing. The game's stars turn it on late in the season.

Eddie George has never missed a start in his eight-year career; 123 in a row. Wow!

Curtis Martin hasn't missed a game since 1998 and has only missed four in his nine-year career.

Priest Holmes played in 50 consecutive games when a hip injury forced him to miss the final two games of last season. He hasn't missed a game this season.

LaDainian Tomlinson hasn't missed a start in his three-year career.

Ricky Williams is up to 43 games straight.

Ahman Green has played in 60 of the Packers' last 62 games.

It is the kind of durability great backs must have. Their position is about a lot more than long runs and dazzling moves. The running back position is about endurance and toughness.

Barry Sanders played his final five seasons without missing a game or a start. Just a fancy runner? No way. Sanders was a tough guy, too.

And are we now to describe Taylor that way? After starting his career by missing 24 games in a four-year period, Taylor hasn't missed a game in either of the last two seasons.

In time, he could fit in the category with the tough guys.

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