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Fish out of water: Taylor returns to Miami ... as a Jet

DAVIE, Fla. -- Jason Taylor expects to hear jeers and hopes to hear cheers when he steps back onto the Miami Dolphins' field Sunday night wearing the uniform South Floridians hate most.

No. 99 is a longtime local favorite, but Taylor's new green and white New York Jets jersey is sure to color the reception he receives from fans.

"I would expect because I play for the Jets that they wouldn't be very happy," Taylor said in a conference call Wednesday. "Maybe I'm hoping it's just mixed. Obviously everyone wants to be cheered, but I understand I'm on the road team and the bitter rival now, so I wouldn't be surprised to hear boos. ...

"This is my new chapter in life. I'll find a way to make it work and adjust, and it'll be fine."

The game will be Taylor's first against the Dolphins after 12 seasons with them. The NFL's active sack leader wanted to finish his career in Miami, but when there was no contract offer from the Bill Parcells regime last offseason, he reluctantly signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins' archrivals.

Taylor, 36, ruefully took note of the timing when Parcells moved into a consulting role two weeks ago and put Miami general manager Jeff Ireland in charge of football operations.

"Pretty ironic," Taylor said.

Had Parcells stepped back six months earlier, would Taylor still be with Miami?

"If you held my hand over a fire to give you an answer, I'd say yes," Taylor said.

Leaving Miami was wrenching because Taylor had developed a special bond with the area. He has a prominent foundation in South Florida, where he still keeps his offseason home.

As Dolphins linebacker Quentin Moses said: "Everybody loves Jason."

When asked if he dreaded playing against his old team, Taylor laughed.

"I'm looking forward to it in some ways," he said. "It's not a very familiar situation for me. I have to keep the emotions in check and approach it as an important game for us. I'm excited to play against the guys I've come to love."

The situation will be strange for the Dolphins, too. Taylor anchored their defense for more than a decade -- and stirred up anti-Jets vitriol whenever the AFC East rivals met.

"It's going to be weird, knowing how much he hates -- or hated -- the Jets," Miami cornerback Jason Allen said. "He's still capable of doing the old Jason Taylor things he does -- sacks and creating turnovers. But it's going to be weird."

Those old Jason Taylor things helped the Jets beat the Patriots on Sunday, when linebacker had a strip-sack of Tom Brady to help seal the win.

Taylor has three quarterback hurries and eight tackles in two games, and he's playing most downs for one of the NFL's best defenses. That's the role coach Rex Ryan proposed during their contract courtship last spring.

With injuries sidelining Jets defenders Darrelle Revis, Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins, Taylor's contributions have become even more valued. He sat out some of Sunday's game because of a left elbow injury but said he will play against the Dolphins.

"We're really fortunate to have him here," Ryan said. "He has been absolutely terrific."

Taylor said the hardest thing about his transition was letting go of Miami after the Jets first signed him. But he said he hasn't felt like an outsider with his new team since his first day there.

"I'm good. I'm happy. I'm accepted. I'm wanted. I'm having fun," Taylor said. "As you get older in this league, you realize your opportunities are winding down, and you start to cherish the game more. I'm going to enjoy every moment."

Well, maybe not the boos.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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