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NEW ORLEANS — Tyrod Taylor is the forgotten quarterback at the Super Bowl.
Everyone knows the starters, of course, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
They even know about Alex Smith, who started for the 49ers until he was sidelined with a concussion in November and Kaepernick stepped in.
And Taylor? His resume can be summed up on the top half of an index card: Two years, no starts and 30 passes — 25 of them in the Ravens’ meaningless regular-season finale against Cincinnati last month.
That’s because Flacco has started every game during the past five seasons and never has missed a down because of injury or ineffectiveness.
Still, Taylor knows he’s only one play away from getting into the Super Bowl, and for that reason he’s practicing hard this week as Sunday’s championship game draws near.
“There are so many situations throughout the league where the next guy is called in, so you can’t look at how many straight games Joe has played without being injured,” Taylor said. “You never know what can happen at any second of the game. I have to be ready to take over if that happens.”
The 49ers are preparing for that situation, too. While Flacco is a traditional pocket passer, Taylor is just as likely to scoot downfield as throw the ball. He ran for 65 yards in that game against the Bengals, and at Virginia Tech he set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (2,196).
“Actually, we’re working on [stopping] the pistol and option in case he gets in and in case they have him in certain packages,” San Francisco defensive tackle Justin Smith said. “We worked on what we do and how to stop him. I think we’ll be prepared for him if he gets in.”
Taylor smiled when told that San Francisco was taking his skill set into account.
“It definitely adds a little extra to the game,” he said. “For them to be prepared shows me it’s definitely something they have in the back of their minds. I played against [San Francisco] coach [Jim] Harbaugh my last game at Virginia Tech, so he knows what I’m capable of doing. My job this week is to prepare the defense and also to prepare myself so if I have to go into the game, I’m ready.”
That, essentially, is the job description of a backup quarterback — whether he was once a starter or has never been anything but a second-stringer.
“I don’t know which situation is better or worse,” Alex Smith said. “We’re just at different points in a career. What’s this, his second year? He’s been on a good team, obviously. He’s there for a reason. Your job as a backup is to be ready to go. That’s no different for him or I. That’s our job.”
It is a role Taylor takes seriously. He isn’t in the Big Easy this week to take a stroll on Bourbon Street or munch on beignets.
“You have to be ready to play,” Taylor said. “That’s how you have to carry yourself throughout the week as far preparation. You have to be physically prepared and mentally prepared because you never know when the opportunity may come.”
For now, Taylor is fine with his role. The former sixth-round draft pick is playing on a winner, earning a decent paycheck and is appreciated by his teammates.
“He’s a great quarterback, man,” Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said. “I think a lot of people underestimated him coming out of the draft. You think, how did he even fall this far? Obviously, it’s tough for him because of Joe, but Tyrod can play. We’re both from Virginia, and I’ve known him since high school. I’m happy he’s on our team, because he can definitely do some damage. But he understands how it works. It’s a business, and you have to wait your turn.”
The 24-year-old Taylor is willing to be patient.
“Of course I want to start, but my job is to continue to stay prepared,” he said. “When the opportunity does come or whatever playing time I get, I have to continue to showcase my talent because other eyes are looking. But right now, it’s all about whatever it takes to win this game right here, this Super Bowl. So that’s my job this week.”
By John R. Bolton
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