Jason Taylor is as smooth on a podium as he is rushing the passer. The Redskins’ newest star lived up to every bit of his billing during his welcome to Washington press conference Monday evening.
The six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, acquired from Miami a day earlier for two draft picks, thanked all the right people in his life and with Washington, expressed his sorrow over the season-ending knee injury to Phillip Daniels that prompted the trade, danced as deftly around his dispute with the Dolphins as he did in becoming a finalist on “Dancing with the Stars” this spring and even genuflected to the Redskins’ verging-on-antique trio of Super Bowl trophies.
“It’s been a whirlwind, the last 24 hours,” said Taylor, who was picked up in Miami by Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s plane on Sunday night, flown to Dallas to gather his family and then back to Miami on Monday morning to drop them off before heading to the District. “I’m very excited about the prospect of playing for the Washington Redskins. It was very unfortunate what happened to Phillip Daniels. My heart breaks for a guy who worked so hard to get ready. But it catapulted my opportunity to come here, so I’m thankful for that.”
Taylor, who will be 34 in September, said last month this would be his last season. But he promised he will fulfill his contract, which runs through 2009.
“What I love to do is get after quarterbacks,” Taylor said. “I love chasing them, making them nervous and making them do dumb things. I’m here to play ball and play ball as long as I can. It’s football season, so there’s no entertainment business stuff right now [despite Snyder’s movie company]. There’s no dancing unless we’re celebrating big plays.”
That’s why the NFL’s active leader in sacks with 117, who got to the quarterback 11 times last year and was the 2006 defensive player of the year, is now with Washington. In Taylor and Andre Carter, who had 10.5 sacks in 2007, the Redskins suddenly have their best pair of sackmasters since Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith in 2000.
“It was like Christmas in July for us to be able to add a player of his caliber,” middle linebacker London Fletcher said. “To have him and Andre bringing the pressure off the edge… the whole defense will benefit. You don’t have to cover as long. The quarterback is not throwing on rhythm. You’re able to create more turnovers and sacks.”
Chris Samuels, a five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle, hasn’t forgotten Taylor beating him in 2003, sacking Patrick Ramsey and ending the quarterback’s season with a broken foot. Backup tackle Todd Wade still remembers lining up against Taylor in practice as a Dolphins rookie in 2000 and expecting at 320 pounds to drive-block “245 pounds tops dripping wet” with no problem only to have the speedster beat him with superb technique.
“It’s going to create some problem for offenses,” said defensive coordinator Greg Blache, whose pass rush ranked 27th out of 32 teams last season. “They’re going to have to decide where they’re going to slide, who they’re going to chip on. That will be a new dimension for us. [Taylor has] got a great motor. He plays the game with a passion. He’s got toughness. He plays the run. He rushes the passer. He’s a total football player.”
And Taylor, the 2007 winner of the Walter Payton Award for his community service and his on-field excellence, is the kind of sterling citizen organizations love - even though he clashed with new Dolphins front office czar Bill Parcells this spring when he skipped the offseason program to dance the nights away in Los Angeles on national television.
“From my point of view there was no animosity, no hard feelings, no negativity,” Taylor said, echoing the comments of Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga and general manager Jeff Ireland. “The Dolphins [have] been outstanding to me for 11 years, and I love them to death. That’s home. I was ready to go play football in Miami. It wasn’t a situation where I was disgusted to have to go play for the Miami Dolphins. A piece of my heart will always belong to Miami, but now I am a Redskin and very happy to be.”