Running back expects to be recovered by July camp

Updated: June 24, 2005, 11:36 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Fred Taylor remains confident he will be recovered at some point in training camp next month, but revealed that the left knee injury he suffered late last season was more severe than either he or teams officials acknowledged.

Taylor continues his rehabilitation from surgery, which he underwent five months ago.

Fred Taylor
Taylor

"It was a lot worse than initially thought," Taylor, the centerpiece of the Jags' offense, said during a radio interview Thursday with WZNZ. "How that came about, I don't know, but it definitely was [worse]. They kept that under wraps. I had an MCL (medial collateral ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) tear. The thing that I heard was that it was the severity of an ACL -- not as bad, but just below it, because of the combination of the two.

"And that's what people fail to understand. Every time they saw me, they were thinking, 'Why are you still on crutches? Why aren't you walking correctly now?' But that was only three weeks out of my surgery, and I had a full-cut surgery, instead of a 'scope.' Everybody thought I had [arthroscopic surgery], but it was worse than that."

Several media outlets, including ESPN.com, reported that Taylor's surgery, performed by orthopedist Dr. John Uribe of Miami in late January, was an arthroscopic procedure. The Jaguars did not rectify those reports.

The injury, sustained in a victory last Dec. 19 at Green Bay, sidelined Taylor for the final two games of the season. The seven-year veteran has been unable to participate in any of the Jaguars' on-field activities in the offseason.

There have been suggestions Taylor might miss the entire season, but coach Jack Del Rio has debunked that notion on several occasions. Taylor reiterated this week that he will be ready for the start of the season but might play only sparingly in preseason games.

Jacksonville has been linked to several trade rumors involving running backs, most notably Seattle's Shaun Alexander and Buffalo's Travis Henry, but team officials have denied there have been substantive talks with those teams. Vice president of personnel James Harris conceded there have been "conversations" about Henry, who has been on the trade block the entire offseason, but downplayed those internal discussions.

Coaches have lauded the offseason work of two young backs, third-year pro LaBrandon Toefield and 2005 fourth-round draft choice Alvin Pearman, and expressed confidence the two could successfully fill in if Taylor's recovery is prolonged.

But the more likely scenario is that the Jaguars will closely monitor Taylor during the next few weeks, when his workouts will be accelerated and he will be asked to make the kind of hard cuts he had avoided to this point, and then make a determination on his progress. If the Jags believe Taylor is behind in his recovery, the team might make a move to acquire a veteran back before or during camp.

Taylor, 29, literally missed 1 seasons -- 24 games in all -- during the first four years of his career. He was a model of consistency and good health in 2002 and began a stretch of 46 consecutive starts, a streak snapped by the injury at Green Bay in '04.

The former University of Florida player and Jacksonville's first-round choice in 1998, Taylor has chafed at suggestions that he's a slow healer. Part of that perception, though, was a function of the Jaguars at times not divulging the severity of his injuries. In 2001, for instance, the club downplayed the seriousness of a groin injury that eventually kept him out for all but two games that year.

"This is actually the second time that it's happened in my career, where I'm getting called out for being a softy, this and that," Taylor said during his appearance on WZNZ. "It's like, 'It's an injury where he should return in this amount of time.' And then, here I am, looking like I'm not working hard."

In seven seasons, Taylor has carried 1,637 times for 7,580 yards and 48 touchdowns (he's rushed for 1,000 or more yards five times). One of the NFL's best receivers out of the backfield, Taylor has 225 career catches for 1,880 yards and seven scores.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.