Jaguars running back coach Jerald Ingram believes the less said about Fred Taylor's penchant for injury, the better.
"The less you talk about it, the less you worry about it. If it does happen, maybe you need to go to church a little more," Ingram told reporters yesterday, when he was questioned about the forecast for Taylor remaining healthy throughout the 2002 season.
Taylor is considered to be the key player in the Jaguars' hopes to be competitive for the AFC South Division title this year. He is their home-run hitter. Maybe no running back in the league offers as much long-run potential as Taylor does.
"He has the ability to do the exceptional. Secondary players have to prepare for that kind of player. They don't see that kind of runner every day," Ingram said of Taylor.
However, Taylor's 2001 season ended in the first half of the second game of last year, when he suffered a severe groin tear that left him hobbling into the offseason. Now, fans ask: Is Taylor fully recovered?
"He seems to be," Ingram said. "He's been here all summer. He's been very committed and has taken on a leadership role. We talked to him in mini-camp about taking on more of a leadership role.
"He's in great shape. He really looks cut," Ingram said of his prized running back, who has been the target of fan and media criticism for a lack of durability. It is the only rap against him, but it has caused fans to dub him "Fragile Fred," a tag that has dug deeper at Taylor than most people would think.
Taylor went to Ingram in tears last season. It occurred at the height of the injury controversy, when Taylor was listed as "questionable" (50 percent chance of playing) on the Jaguars' weekly injury report. And each week ended with Taylor unable to play. It only served to increase the personal attacks on Taylor's character.
"Who can explain them? You can't explain them," Ingram said of Taylor's injuries, which have included hamstring, shoulder, wrist, knee and hip pointer hurts that have caused Taylor to miss 24-and-a-half games in his four-year career.
"Maybe this will be his year. I think he's really determined. He doesn't like the label he has and he wants to do something about it. The only thing a player can do to answer (critics) is just play. There are no excuses. It's a high-performance game. Until you play the way we've seen (Taylor) play, and better, that's it," Ingram said.
Taylor's response begins this Friday, when the Jaguars open training camp.