NFL: Ex-Dolphin Taylor transitioning to life with Jets
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jason Taylor is still getting used to wearing green and white.
After all, the New York Jets' newest pass rusher was once despised by some of the guys in the locker room he now calls home.
"Yeah, it's weird," the former Miami Dolphins star said Thursday after his second practice with the Jets. "The first few days, it was a little strange. Putting the jersey on for the first time (Tuesday) was a little different. But at the end of the day, they've made it so welcoming and so easy to make that transition."
The NFL's active sacks leader spent 12 of his 13 seasons in Miami, and was hoping for an offer from the Dolphins that never came. After carefully weighing his options, Taylor did what he once considered the unthinkable: He signed a two-year deal with the rival Jets.
"The guys have been great and really embraced me and made me feel welcome despite the past history," he said. "So it's been a good time."
Taylor was on the other side of one of the NFL's most intense rivalries, and had a contentious relationship with fans in New York. He called them ignorant and classless, and said their "J-E-T-S!" chant was "dumb." Taylor was also involved in a pregame skirmish with former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes in November.
"I never really had a problem with Taylor," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "I mean, he played for the Dolphins, but I never went up against him. You have to understand our locker room is really tight and we embrace anybody that comes in. He's wearing green and white now, so he's a Jet."
Linebacker Calvin Pace acknowledged having looked up to Taylor early in his career.
"I never told him this, man, but I am a fan," Pace said. "He's a guy who made it and kind of paved the way for me as far as I'm not the biggest guy in the world, so he helped me get my start a little bit."
Taylor is honoring his Dolphins past with his new No. 95 Jets jersey. His usual No. 99 is being worn by veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas, so Taylor opted to go with the number of former Miami teammate Tim Bowens.
"He was really instrumental in my career and special to me," Taylor said. "He's probably the most unselfish player I've ever played with and underrated player I ever played with. He's a really good guy."
Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has had the tough task of having to block Taylor for the past few seasons. Now, the two are a few lockers apart.
"I remember he came in as a rookie and I was trying to abuse him," Taylor recalled, "and trying to get him going a little bit and see if I could get a personal foul on him and all that."
Ferguson said that's all in the past now, although it doesn't make Taylor immune from some ribbing.
"We had him break it down in the weight room today and we thought he was going to say, 'Dolphins!"' Ferguson said with a laugh. "You have a chance to play with so many different individuals in this league, and the way the league works, you are probably going to see a lot of changes. It's good when you can play against a guy you have a lot of respect for and now he is a part of your plans."
Coach Rex Ryan spent a good chunk of the offseason trying to persuade Taylor to join the Jets. He envisions him as a pass-rushing force who could move around in the defense as a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive end.
"I've done it before and had a good year with it in 2006, so I'm all for it," said Taylor, referring to the season in which he won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.
Taylor is still recovering from offseason surgery on his right shoulder and has been limited during the first set of organized team activities.
"It's funny (because) yesterday we had him out there and we're going through some individual drills, he comes off and lights somebody up, 'I just got a little excited,"' Ryan said. "I want to slow him down, proceed with caution and teach him the defense first. He's itching to go, though. He'll be ready for training camp, without question."
Taylor agreed that there's no reason to rush back and risk further injury, so he's taking it slow for now. He'll keep doing what he can on the field in the meantime, while becoming acquainted with Ryan's defense and the terminology.
"It will take a little time to learn it, but I'll be fine by the time we kick this thing off," said Taylor, who added that the atmosphere around the Jets is "night and day" compared to that of the Dolphins under Bill Parcells.
"I don't want to call it relaxed like it's lackadaisical," he said, "but it's a little more positive and a little more calm."
Taylor welcomes that change, the way his new teammates have with their former enemy.
"What I thought would be a tough transition," Taylor said, "is going seamless."