The ageless one is ready to embark on his 13th season carrying the football in the National Football League. Fred Taylor, who seemed to be on his way out of the league, or at least set to begin the twilight of his career, is seemingly ready to play at the same type of high level that allowed him to rush for more than 11,000 yards during his first 11 years in the league with Jacksonville. Taylor’s first season in New England last year was less than stellar. He rushed the ball just 63 times for 269 yards and four touchdowns, but injuries and a depleted Patriots’ rushing attack were the primary culprits for his decline in production. Now that he’s healthy, and now that New England seems poised to be more versatile and potent on offense, Taylor has his eye on increasing his production once again as he tries to enhance his borderline Hall of Fame resume.
Taylor joined WEEI in Boston last last week to talk about not putting much stock or thought into whether or not he’ll be the Patriots’ starting running back for Week 1, how he’s more concerned about getting carries late in the game while doing whatever he can to help the team, being relieved that the preseason is behind him and the Patriots, if he ever thinks about what kind of numbers he may have been able to accumulate had injuries not slowed him down at various points in his career, the challenge of mentoring young guys, particularly those that aren’t receptive to advice, his thoughts on the slew of young talent on the roster, and how he’s more confident than ever in what the Patriots’ offense is capable of heading into the season.
On if he looks at the way he was used in the Patriots preseason finale as an indication that he’ll be used as the starting running back for New England in Week 1:
“I answered that same question last night, and the answer that I gave them was, for me, I’m the oldest of five kids, I’m big on sharing. Starting is just one play. If you want to get credit for starting and playing that first play, and then not playing the rest of the game, maybe that’s something that someone else likes. But me, I just like playing. I have a job to do and whatever it is, whatever is called for, that’s my assignment and that’s what I’m going to do. So starting isn’t everything for me.”
On if he’s relieved the preseason is finally behind him and the rest of the Patriots:
“Yeah, that’s what we tend to refer to as the real bullets are flying, and you don’t want to get caught. The preseason, the grind is over. We’ve tried to develop our foundation from the ground up and we’ll see how strong it is going forward into the season. But I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it.”
On if he has any regrets with his career knowing that if he had been able to stay a bit more healthy, he might be quite a bit higher on the career rushing yards list:
“I try not to have any regrets, but there are those moments where I’m just sitting around and am like ‘what if’. But I don’t want to label that a regret. I don’t regret that or am kicking myself or beating myself down about it, because the game naturally is a physical, brutal, brutal game. And guys, we had a practice out here against the Saints – just a walk through type practice, the night before the game, and their running back on a simple walk-through pace toss play, tore his ACL. Something as simple as that. And we’re talking about colliding with guys with a bulls eye on my chest every single play. So I’m just thankful to be around, regardless of the amount of injuries that I’ve had.”
On the challenge of trying to mentor younger guys when some just don’t want to accept help:
“We all come from different backgrounds, and like I said, you really can’t force feed an individual. I think it really goes back to parenting and how you were brought up. Me, I was raised by my grandmother, and she always preached respect to your peers, your elders, and just humility, just being humble. And that’s what she instilled in all of us. For me it was easy to come in, James Stewart took me under his wings, there was no animosity, he didn’t think I was trying to just take his job. He understood the business and we developed a pretty good friendship. And that’s what it’s all about.”
On what he thinks of the Patriots young players collectively:
“I think it’s a solid group of young guys in there. Coach did an outstanding job of assembling a good group of guys that are going to come in and contribute quite early, in my opinion. I’m not the decision maker, but just seeing what I’ve seen in training camp, we’re going to have to depend on a lot of these young guys. And it will be up to the veterans to kind of try to grab them if things get a little shaky. But from what I’ve seen, I haven’t seen any instances where they’re going to get out of hand.”
On if he took offense to the fact that the Patiots rarely ran the ball on 3rd and short situations last year:
“Of course that’s always motivation, but it doesn’t offend me. Not one bit. And I don’t want to speak on last year, I’m just going to speak in general. As a running back, you have to make them want to call those running plays, you’ve got to get it done. In a nutshell, you’ve just got to get it done. And if the hesitation comes from not getting it done, that’s where it comes from. We just have to go out there as a unit, when it’s time to get it done, you have to be able to earn it. If you want to be able to call run plays on 3rd and 1, 3rd and 2, you have to earn it. And quite frankly, maybe we didn’t do well enough. I’m pretty sure we didn’t do as well as we hoped for in a lot of those games, but it’s a new season, and hopefully that will be one of our brighter spots.”
On how his attitude and outlook about the Patriots’ offense may differ this year compared to heading into last season, his first with the team:
“Going into last year, I was more so excited just to be here, just being around these guys and knowing the type of team that they’ve been in that they’re in it and always having a chance. And the players that I was around, actually getting a chance to play with Tommy [Brady], Kev [Faulk], the offensive line, Ceddie, the guys that have been together five, six years or whatever the case. I was just excited, felt a great deal of confidence. And nothing changes this year. Tommy’s back, he’s healthier, I’m sure his confidence is sky-rocket high. And all the other guys are back. There’s young guys that played last year that have developed. Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, they had an opportunity to play some last year. Tate had a very awesome preseason. The backs are all in tact, so I’m very confident. I really think we’re going to have a very good offense this year.”