|Family, friends, teammates mourn loss of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 28 November 2007 02:08|
``I think one day he'll come to grips with himself and say, 'You know what, it was senseless' and he'll turn himself in,'' said Taylor's father, the Florida City police chief.
Family, friends, teammates and the football community across the country mourned the loss of Taylor, the 24-year-old who died early Tuesday of a gunshot wound from an apparent intruder.
``He will truly be missed by all of us,'' Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. ``I'll hold him close to our hearts. It's just a tough situation right now, and ...''
Campbell's voice drifted off, and his eyes welled. He could say no more.
Early Monday, Taylor and longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened by loud noises at Taylor's home in an affluent Miami suburb, according to family friend Richard Sharpstein. Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection, Sharpstein said, then someone broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor. Neither the couple's 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie, nor Garcia were injured in the attack.
The bullet damaged the femoral artery in Taylor's leg, causing significant blood loss. Taylor never regained consciousness and died a little more than 24 hours later.
``This is a terrible, terrible tragedy,'' said Redskins owner Dan Snyder, his eyes red and his voice cracking with emotion.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said he did not know why Taylor returned to Miami during the weekend. Taylor was not required to accompany the team to Sunday's game at Tampa Bay because of a knee injury.
Police had no description of a possible suspect and were investigating whether the shooting was connected to a break-in at Taylor's home eight days earlier, in which police said someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
``They're going to be looking at every angle,'' Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said. ``They're going to be looking at every lead.''
Authorities from Miami-Dade Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were in and out of Taylor's home Tuesday. Police were seen taking a computer from Taylor's home.
A stream of family and friends arrived throughout the day. Some embraced outside; most came and went without speaking to a group of several dozen reporters.
At Pedro Taylor's home, the victim's father was met with embrace after embrace by friends and family members when he arrived.
``We're all hurting,'' said Taylor's father, who spoke privately with Miami-Dade homicide detectives and expressed confidence in the investigation. ``I mean that's my child.''
The Redskins, too, were struggling to cope, knowing they're scheduled to return to the practice field Wednesday to prepare for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.
``I have never dealt with this,'' Gibbs said. ``We're going one hour at a time here.''
Snyder said the Redskins will honor Taylor by wearing a patch on their jerseys and his No. 21 on their helmets. The NFL was expected to decide Wednesday how it will handle tributes to Taylor at this weekend's games.
There is little precedence on how to go forward, although several teams have dealt with tragedy in recent years.
Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting on New Year's Day, the day after the season ended in a playoff loss, and teammate Damien Nash - a running back - collapsed and died after a charity basketball game he'd organized in February.
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Thomas Herrion died of a heart attack after a preseason game in September 2005. Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer died of heatstroke at a training camp practice in 2001. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle was shot in the stomach by three armed robbers in southwest Miami in July 2005 and missed the following season.
Taylor was having his best season on the field. Instead of playing a hybrid safety position, he was a true free safety. He used speed and power to chase passes and intimidate receivers. His five interceptions tie for the lead in the NFC, even though he missed the last two games because of his sprained knee.
``What got cut short here was a career that was going to go to a lot of Pro Bowls and have a lot of fun,'' Gibbs said.
He also was becoming a leader, and his teammates had elected him to the players' committee that meets regularly with Gibbs.
``He was kind of a wild child, like myself,'' said New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, who played with Taylor at the University of Miami and worked out with him in the offseason. ``But life changed for Sean after he had his baby girl. Fatherhood really changed him. He grew up and matured.''
Private and slow to trust anyone, Taylor rarely granted interviews. During his last known full-length interview, conducted with WTEM-AM in September, he spoke of the joy he felt when he made his daughter laugh, how he wanted to give her life experiences different from his own, and how he did not fear death.
``You can't be scared of death,'' he told the radio station. ``When that time comes, it comes. ... You never see a person who has lived their life to the fullest. They sometimes feel sorry for like a child, maybe, that didn't get a chance to do some of the things they thought that child might have had a chance to do in life. I've been blessed. God's looked out for me, so, I'm happy.''
Still, Taylor, drafted No. 5 overall by the Redskins in April 2004, got off to a rocky start in the NFL.
He had a drunken driving charge that later was dismissed. He skipped part of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium. He fired two agents. He didn't like his contract. He refused to return Gibbs' calls during the offseason. And he was fined at least seven times for late hits, uniform violations and other on-field infractions.
In 2005, he was accused of pointing a gun during a fight over all-terrain vehicles near his Miami home, a legal battle that ended a year later when he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to probation.
``You think back to how much heat he took for everything,'' said close friend and Redskins running back Clinton Portis said. ``For missing camp, for not being around for this or that, for missing the rookie symposium. You come to the realization that all of that means nothing.''
Associated Press Writers Jessica Gresko and Matt Sedensky in Miami and Tony Winton in Perrine, Fla. contributed to this report.