MIAMI -- For weeks, Bill Parcells has been hearing plenty about his feud with Jason Taylor.
Parcells says it doesn't exist.
Finally ending his silence about the much-ballyhooed topic, the Miami Dolphins' football operations czar not only said Thursday that he wants the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end on his team this fall, but also tried to eliminate the perception that he deliberately snubbed Taylor during a chance encounter at the team's headquarters earlier this spring.
Two weeks after announcing Jason Taylor won't practice with the team through training camp, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday he told the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end that he and the organization want him back.
"I wanted to make it clear to Jason that we as an organization want him back here, and that I was anxious to see him running around here with his teammates," Sparano said. "I think Jason left with a pretty clear understand of that from my end." More ...
"Why wouldn't you want one of the very best players?" Parcells said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This thing has kind of taken on a life of its own and a large measure of this 'rift' is fabrication. I don't really know what the genesis was, other than there was some talk about a trade and people naturally thinking that when I come in it's going to be confrontational. And that's not necessarily true."
This was clear: Barring a change of plans, Parcells wants No. 99 on the field for Miami in 2008.
"Of course I want him here," Parcells said.
Parcells looked tanned and relaxed, wearing a black shirt and gray slacks at a promotional appearance for Gatorade Tiger, the sports drink endorsed by world No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods. Seated on a tan leather couch, not far from where people were in a long-drive contest inside a lunar simulator and sipping free bottles of the drink, Parcells couldn't have seemed more at ease during a 30-minute interview in which he seemed absolutely genuine.
When the conversation turned to Taylor, Parcells didn't hesitate to share his side the story.
Parcells had been silent -- publicly, anyway -- since Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga hired him in December to run the team's football side. While evading the public eye, Parcells rebuilt the coaching staff, helped make roster decisions and looked at piles of film, all in an effort to change Miami's fortunes. The Dolphins were an NFL-worst 1-15 last season and haven't made the playoffs in six years.
But Parcells' relationship with Taylor, one incident in particular, has been dominant more than any aspect of his tenure so far.
Earlier this spring, when Taylor stopped by the Dolphins' facility during a quick trip back to South Florida from his work on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, Parcells reportedly ignored the 2006 NFL defensive player of the year when he popped into the same room as Parcells and new Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.
As the story went, Taylor said something to Parcells, and Parcells silently turned away.
Parcells remembers it a bit differently.
"See, that's not true," Parcells said. "It's not true. It's my understanding -- OK, and I could be misinterpreting, but I don't think I am -- that he came to meet with coach Sparano. There were 25 or 30 people in this room, we were doing film, and apparently, he may have stuck his hand in the door and maybe I wasn't paying attention. I wear hearing aids. That particular day, I didn't have them with me. I'm not trying to make an excuse, but there was no intentional, calculated, disrespectful thing that I personally did. I know that for a fact."
The saga took another turn last month when Sparano said Taylor would not be with the team for its offseason program or training camp, sparking speculation that Taylor demanded a trade from Miami -- a story that Taylor himself tried to snuff out during a quickly arranged news conference on Sunday.
Taylor did acknowledge what has been believed for weeks, that he told the Dolphins he would be open to a trade if the team could find a deal that they believed gave them fair value.
He also said he told the team he intends to play one more season, yet stopped short of saying he absolutely would retire before the 2009 campaign. And he isn't expected at minicamp this weekend, something that Parcells said Sparano will handle however he prefers.
"I want to win in '08. That's what I want to do," Taylor said Sunday. "And I've told the Dolphins from Day 1 that was my intention. My intentions right now are to play one more year. I've tried to give the Dolphins the opportunity, if they wanted to do something and move me, then I was OK with that. If they can get value for me, then do that. That was the conversation we had behind closed doors a long time ago."
Sparano seemed to soften his stance on Taylor earlier this week, after the two held a private meeting to clear the air.
Still, it's hardly a certainty that Taylor takes part in Parcells' first South Florida training camp when it opens next month.
"There's really nothing new to report," Parcells said.
At 66 years old, Parcells -- who, yes, has a fiery side, although he stresses that he doesn't bring it out very often -- says he simply cannot be bothered by what people say anymore.
He insists Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland aren't his puppets and that they are intimately involved in virtually all decisions related to the roster. He didn't react to Terrell Owens' comments to Bloomberg Radio earlier this week that Parcells is "kind of out of touch with a lot of today's athletes and things that are going on."
And he says most of the Taylor-related stories -- while contending they aren't entirely factual -- didn't bother him, either.
"I've learned that the more you stir it, the worse it stinks," Parcells said. "I've learned to kind of bite my tongue. But I can tell you, from my point of view, he's a good player and we'd like to have him on the team."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press