- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 17, 2006

His long-standing legal problems behind him and having recently become a father, Sean Taylor could’ve been at ease yesterday in his first session with the media since he avoided up to 46 years in prison by pleading guilty to two misdemeanors on June 1.

Instead, the Washington Redskins’ standout free safety was his usual defensive self, no pun intended.

“I think it was best to put [the legal situation] away and let me focus on football … be here for these three days so you don’t have to ask me, ‘Why did you miss camp again?’ when I show up for training camp — butcher me,” Taylor said.

The 23-year-old Taylor had been excused from last year’s minicamp after being charged with assault and battery stemming from a June 1, 2005, incident in Miami.

“I would’ve been here last year for the offseason if I could’ve, but with some complications I really couldn’t,” said Taylor, who not only skipped the entire 2005 offseason prior to his arrest but wouldn’t even return coach Joe Gibbs’ phone calls. “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion as far as the offseason goes. Some people believe in participating. Some people believe in resting. As long as you’re here from the end of July [when training camp starts] to whenever the season ends, that’s all your team really cares.”

Not exactly.

Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams demoted Taylor for the first week of training camp last year as punishment for blowing off the offseason and did so again yesterday, with veteran backup Pierson Prioleau joining new strong safety Adam Archuleta in the starting lineup.

“Sean’s behind because of a lot of the stuff he’s missed,” Gibbs said. “That’s tough for us and for him. We’ve talked about that. Hopefully from here on, the road smoothes out. Sean needs to be here. This is where he belongs — working out all the time. He understands that. He really likes football. He’s had a lot of personal issues.”

Those issues began soon after he was picked fifth in the 2004 draft — he was fined $25,000 for walking out of the NFL’s mandatory rookie symposium — and ran through last season, when he was fined $17,000 for spitting in the face of Tampa Bay’s Michael Pittman in the Jan. 7 playoff game. Taylor also still faces a possible suspension and/or fine in the wake of his legal issues.

“We have a big investment there in Sean,” Gibbs said. “He can be a dominating player. He’s been through a lot. He’s learned a lot. He realizes some things and the position he put himself in. I think he’s ready for a fresh start.”

Taylor will have a fresh start on the field with Archuleta replacing the more conservative Ryan Clark, who served as a sort of security blanket for Taylor the past two seasons.

Although the Redskins improved from 6-10 in his rookie year to 10-6 last season, Taylor’s numbers dipped from 76 tackles and four interceptions to 70 tackles and two interceptions. He did return fumbles for touchdowns in the regular season finale at Philadelphia that clinched the playoff berth and in the playoff triumph at Tampa.

“It’s just sharpening up your tools and trying to be a better player,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t the best player last year. I’m always looking for improvement. Unless I’m at the top of my level as far as a safety goes, like the Troy Polamalus and the Ed Reeds, I still have a way to travel. I’m still only getting two or three interceptions a year, so I would like to see my interceptions go up a little bit just to help the team win. Getting to the playoffs isn’t good enough for us. We would like to eventually win a Super Bowl. Sooner would be greater than later.”

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