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Doughty fills void left by slain teammate Taylor

ASHBURN, Va. -- When Reed Doughty runs onto the field Sunday, he knows people will point and say: "That's the guy taking Sean Taylor's spot."

Every NFL player wants to be a starter. No one wants it to happen this way.

"I'll never be able to replace Sean," Doughty said, "as a person or as a player."

Doughty became the reluctant heir at free safety for the Washington Redskins after Taylor was shot to death this week in Miami, where police announced late Friday that four men had been arrested.

As players and coaches mourn the loss of a friend, Doughty has the additional burden of filling an enormous void on the playing field.

"I'm only going to go out there and do my best with the abilities I've been given," Doughty said. "And I'm going to try to honor Sean through that play and really honor God through that play because that's what Sean would want. He would tell me to do my best and lay it out on the field, and that's all I can do."

Doughty is a second-year player, a 2006 sixth-round draft pick from Northern Colorado. Until now, the 25-year-old safety has mostly been known for a personal burden involving his own family: His 1-year-old son, Micah, was born six months early, undergoes dialysis daily and will have a kidney transplant next year.

He started his first NFL game two weeks ago, against the Dallas Cowboys, because Taylor was out with a sprained knee. Doughty was benched in the fourth quarter after the defense allowed two big downfield plays, but he started again last week against Tampa Bay and played better in a 19-13 loss.

But Doughty expected Taylor's knee to heal and to return to his role as a special teams player and occasional nickel back.

Instead, Doughty will take the field Sunday against the Buffalo Bills under very emotional circumstances. The Redskins have planned a pregame tribute that includes a video remembering Taylor's life and career, plus a moment of silence before the national anthem.

"I don't know if there's any right or wrong in how you go about dealing with it," assistant coach Gregg Williams said. "But in Reed's circumstance, Sean would have said: 'Let's go. Cut it loose."'

In fact, Taylor said similar words to Doughty the last time they spoke. Before the Redskins left for the Tampa -- Taylor went to Miami instead -- the Pro Bowl player gave the role player a pep talk.

"He gave me a handshake and said, 'Go all out and have fun. Make a name for yourself,"' Doughty said, "so that's what I've been trying to do."

In other Taylor-related developments Friday at Redskins Park:

  • Kick returner Rock Cartwright said he's designing a T-shirt honoring Taylor that he hopes can be made in time for his teammates to wear under their jerseys Sunday. He said the message on the shirt will be something Taylor told him when the two worked out together in the offseason.

"People will always be bigger than you, but never let anybody outwork you," Cartwright remembered Taylor saying. "That's something I took to heart."

If the shirts aren't delivered before the game, Cartwright said he will write the message on his own shirt.

  • The Redskins announced all fans attending Sunday's game will receive a towel with the No. 21, Taylor's jersey number. Taylor's name also will be displayed prominently in one of the end zones. The team will not sell any Taylor-related merchandise at any of its stores Sunday.
  • The Redskins established the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund to benefit Taylor's 18-month-old daughter, Jackie. The team said the organization and owner Dan Snyder will contribute a minimum of $500,000.

"It's the very least we all can do," Snyder said in a statement.

Donations can be sent to the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund, c/o The Washington Redskins, 21300 Redskins Park Drive, Ashburn, Va. 20147.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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