|12.24.09 at 7:17 pm ET|
If ever Fred Taylor were to make a return to action, this week would seem most likely.
Not only is he fully participating in practice after missing 10 games following right ankle surgery, he is going up against Jacksonville, the team he ran to NFL glory with for 11 seasons prior to this year. Taylor amassed a franchise-record 62 rushing touchdowns, along with a franchise best 11,271 yards. His 4.64 yards per carry is 5th-best in NFL history, trailing only Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Tiki Barber and O.J. Simpson.
Here’s what Taylor had to say about his chances of playing on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“It’ll be great to see all those guys,” he said. “It’s just a buildup this week, but it’s not me versus them. It’s the Jaguars versus the Patriots. I’ve been around a long time. I know how buildup is always good entertainment, but Sunday, I have a job to do.
“You know, the team policy [is] first and foremost, but we’re going to keep playing [it] by ear and see what goes. At the end of the day, ultimately, it’s Coach Belichick’s decision and we’re going to do what’s best for the team, so we’ll just play it by ear and see what happens Sunday.”
Not surprisingly, fellow tailback Laurence Maroney had some fun at Taylor’s expense.
“Man, I really don’t like [the] dude, man,” Maroney joked. “It’s upsetting that he’s coming back because then that’s like less carries for me and stuff. So I was really … No, I’m just playing. It’s always great to have that guy back. Even when he’s not playing, he’s playing because he’s always texting me before every game, ‘This is the way to run. Do this against this team.’ He’s always giving me his insight.
“So whether he’s there or not, he’s always with me because he’s always telling me, ‘Run physical. Run behind the pads, one cut and go get up field. [Against] this team, you’re going to break a lot of arm tackles.’ Everything he’s been teaching me the whole year, whether he’s with me or not, it’s always good to have him back on the sideline. He’s like my extra eyes. He can see things differently than what I can see on the field, so I can come to the sideline and be like, ‘Fred, what did you see?’ And he can make corrections on how to help me run better,” Maroney said in a more serious tone.
Taylor reiterated on Thursday that he’s just grateful the Patriots didn’t put him on season-ending injured reserve.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity not to be on IR and just to be here, even having that possibility of playing,” he added. “I had a pretty severe injury. At this point, it’s no holds-barred with the season winding down. Right now, any type of playing time would be outstanding. I don’t know what to expect, but I’ll be ready.”
And, if he does play, will he be emotional facing Jacksonville for the first time?
“Of course, there’s always a measure of emotion,” Taylor acknowledged. “I’m sure tons and tons of it will be pouring out from those guys as well as myself. We were ranked number one or two in run defense when [head coach] Jack Del Rio first got there and I would always tease the guys, ‘Hey, I would bust y’all up if I was somewhere else.’ Part of it is joking, but part of it is serious in me being confident in my abilities. It will be a whole lot of fun to go out there and see all the former guys and go up against them.”
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