Redskins, fans and opponents reflect on Taylor

ASHBURN, Va. -- It was a little past 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday when Clinton Portis picked up a phone in a Florida hotel room and began calling other Washington Redskins players one by one, steeling himself for the worst sort of conversation.

Portis was delivering the news that Sean Taylor -- the Redskins' Pro Bowl safety, their teammate, their friend -- was dead, one day after he was shot at his home by an apparent intruder.

"I just wish that everyone had the opportunity to get a chance to know him," quarterback Jason Campbell said, "because if you just sit down and talk to Sean one-on-one, he was a special person."

Campbell was among those players who talked about Taylor at Washington's practice facility on Tuesday, normally an off day for the team. Like other Redskins, Campbell spoke not so much about Taylor's talent on the football field, but rather his personal growth away from the game, particularly since the birth of his 1-year-old daughter.

"He will truly be missed by all of us," Campbell continued. "I'll hold him close to our hearts. It's just a tough situation right now, and ..."

That's when Campbell's voice drifted off.

His eyes welled up.

He could say no more.

Taylor's loss was felt among the Redskins, of course, but also across the NFL and in the football community of the University of Miami, where he was an All-American.

"Sean and I had a special bond. We came into college together, we left for the NFL the same year and were drafted right next to each other," said Miami teammate and Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. "Sean's future was taken away from him by a senseless act of violence."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was "working to determine the facts" behind Taylor's death.

"This is a terrible tragedy involving the loss of a young man who leaves behind many people struggling to understand it," Goodell said.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder said his players will remember Taylor by wearing a patch on their jerseys and a decal of the safety's No. 21 on their helmets when they return to the field.

"We really will miss Sean," Snyder said. "Over the last two years, I got a chance to really see him grow as a man, off the field. He became very, very important to me."

Snyder also said he will arrange for the entire Redskins organization to attend Taylor's funeral, which has yet to be scheduled.

"All of us here are going to work together, go forward together and I think each person here has to deal with it in his own way," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "I don't know how we'll deal with it, except we'll all do it together."

He was asked whether he wants to play the team's next scheduled game, at home Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"That's kind of hard to answer," the Hall of Fame coach said. "There are certain things in life you can't control, and we certainly can't control this."

Guard Pete Kendall said it will be difficult to prepare for the Bills.

"Obviously, we've got a game this weekend, but that's the farthest thing from my mind and anybody's mind at this point," said safety Reed Doughty, who replaced an injured Taylor in Washington's lineup the past two Sundays. "I guess we'll just take that as it comes."

Several present and past teammates referred to Taylor as "family" or "a brother," while the coach who recruited him to play at Miami, Butch Davis, spoke of "his charismatic personality, and his willingness to compete at the highest level."

Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards opened his weekly news conference by mentioning Taylor.

"When you lose a young man like that, in the prime of his life, it sets you back," Edwards said. "You think about the things you really feel bad about, and you figure out, 'You know what? That's really not too important in the grand scheme of it.' "

Members of the Dallas Cowboys held a moment of silence for Taylor and his family, and the Green Bay Packers said a team prayer.

"Once you are part of the NFL, you are part of a family. He was a guy that was a great talent on the field," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "It's hard to talk about."

Gestures of mourning and tokens of remembrance took the place of words for many of the fans who had rooted for Taylor's violent hits and increasing interceptions during his four seasons in the NFL.

For a second straight night, a vigil was held on the grounds near Redskin Park, with about 300 people holding candles and black ribbons. There were makeshift memorials there and at the team's stadium in Landover, Md., with teddy bears and little notes and flowers -- so many flowers.

Several bouquets also were left beside the white wall surrounding Taylor's yellow home in suburban Miami.

A stream of relatives and friends arrived at the house throughout the day, some meeting to embrace outside. Quindale Corker Jr., a 10-year-old who said Taylor was a friend of his family's, brought a bunch of red carnations and a stuffed bear carrying a paper heart that read, "My hero, soul mate and mentor."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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