Close to home
Taylor's death will have deep impact on many players
Posted: Tuesday November 27, 2007 12:13PM; Updated: Tuesday November 27, 2007 3:13PM
CLEVELAND -- Ran into Alfredo Roberts, the tight ends coach of the Browns, around dinner time last night, and he knew his visit with Kellen Winslow later in the day was going to be tough. "He'll be taking this hard, very hard,'' Roberts said. "He was tight with Sean.''
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who died this morning of a gunshot wound suffered when his Miami home was broken into Monday morning, leaves a lot of close friends around the NFL. As a family friend said this morning, it's another example of senseless gun violence robbing America of another citizen, and we're all poorer for it.
We in the media did not know Taylor well ... or at all, in my case. But I've been impressed with the reports of his maturation over the last couple of years. With the birth of a daughter in 2006, he clearly was trying to be the type of mature father we all strive to be with our children. I'm also impressed with how he'd become a leader in the locker room.
This will be a devastating blow to a team already reeling on the field. Never mind that Washington is losing one of its top three or four players -- until he suffered a knee injury Nov. 11 against Philadelphia, Taylor was having his most impactful season at safety. What Roberts said last night will apply to the Redskins doubly: They will take this very, very hard.
We don't know much about the Taylor story yet. Random act of senseless violence? Doesn't sound like it, but we don't know. Simple burglary gone wrong? We don't know. Sordid past rising up in some sort of revenge attack? We don't know. So we have to be careful about jumping to conclusions with a story that is in its infancy.
Each summer, the NFL gathers all its draft picks in a symposium and alerts them to the potential trouble that comes with being young, rich and famous. It's a great idea, and I've told by more than one young player that it's been a big help to their adjustment to living with money and fame.
One of the messages at the symposium: If you have to cut ties to events and people in your past, cut them, and cut them before it's too late. It's a message that played out prominently in the Michael Vick story. Vick never became a contributing member of the Atlanta society, preferring to stay tethered to his Virginia home and Virginia friends. He started a new life, but only halfheartedly; his real life other than in football was all with his friends from the past.
The danger there is that if you need to cut them off and move on, sometimes you can't. Either because of a sense of loyalty, or some vow you made a long time ago that if one of us makes it big, he'll bring the others with him. And the others, many times, are the ones who bring trouble with them.
Again, it's far too early to know why Taylor's home was broken into twice in eight days, or why he was shot and killed. Let's let the legal system work. For now, our thoughts go out to his grieving family and to his friends who are hurting right now. It's a terrible loss.