<
>

Safety getting more press for ills than skills

ASHBURN, Va. -- The tumultuous rookie season of
Washington Redskins rookie Sean Taylor hit a new low in the early hours
Thursday when he was arrested on a drunken driving charge.

The No. 5 overall draft pick from Miami then compounded his
ordeal by keeping the Redskins guessing his whereabouts until he
arrived at Redskins Park in the afternoon, well after the team's
practice. He entered the building through a back door and met with
coach Joe Gibbs.

Several hours later, the team released a one-sentence statement
announcing the 21-year-old safety would be inactive for Sunday's
game against the Green Bay Packers. Gibbs was not available for
comment after the meeting.

Taylor was stopped by a state trooper at about 2:45 a.m. ET, on
Washington's Interstate 495 beltway. Lt. Harry Newlin of the
Virginia State Police said the officer suspected Taylor had been
drinking.

"He failed some field sobriety tests, was subsequently arrested
for driving under the influence," Newlin said. "He refused a
breath test, so he was charged with driving under the influence and
refusal of a breath test."

Taylor was held for four hours in the Fairfax County Jail and
released on $5,000 bond at 10 a.m. His mug shot shows him wearing
a black T-shirt with two star-shaped earrings.

Taylor is due in court Dec. 1. A first offense is punishable by
up to one year in prison and-or a $2,500 fine. A conviction would
also merit disciplinary action by the NFL.

"It's unfortunate, but we're a family here, and we'll stick
behind Sean," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "Young guys
sometimes make mistakes, and we always talk about that with the
decisions you make, you have to accept the consequences. I know he
will. He'll learn from his mistake and come back and play well for
us."

Gibbs' only comments came after the practice, while he was still
waiting to hear from Taylor.

"It sounds like it's serious," Gibbs said. "And we'll kind of
deal with it with what we think is best for the team."

Taylor was Gibbs' first draft choice after the Hall of Fame
coach ended a 12-year retirement. Gibbs has repeatedly vouched for
the rookie, claiming the selection was made after exhaustive
research into Taylor's character.

But Taylor has made headlines for all the wrong reasons from the
week he was drafted in April.

He left the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium early and was fined
$25,000. He showed up at his first minicamp wearing shorts that
were so baggy they kept falling to his knees. His vision was
impaired temporarily at a later minicamp when a pile of shaving gel
was squirted into his face by linebacker LaVar Arrington in a
wayward prank.

Taylor also fired his agent within days of the draft, and his
contract negotiations were delayed because he took several months
to hire a new one. When he finally found an agent, he signed a
seven-year, $18 million deal. After comparing his contract to those
signed by other draftees, he fired his new agent and rehired his
original one. He also boycotted the media for a few weeks.

Taylor's rehired agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return a call
seeking comment.

On the field, Taylor made a strong impression in exhibition
games with three interceptions, but he played sparingly in the
season opener. He had worked his way into the starting lineup at
free safety by Week 3, but his aggressive style was often negated
when he would take the wrong angle to try to make a tackle or head
in the wrong direction when covering a pass play.

But Taylor had a breakthrough with his first interception and
first sack in the Redskins' last game, a 13-10 victory over Chicago
before the bye week.

"He's a good kid. He's been a pleasure to work with,"
assistant coach Gregg Williams said. "The thing I deal with -- in
the classroom and on the field of play, he's fun to be around. The
things off the field, I don't deal with those things."

Taylor's absence further depletes a defense that has lost
several players while unexpectedly rising to the No. 1 ranking in
the league. Arrington and defensive end Phillip Daniels have missed
the last four games with injuries, and linebacker Mike Barrow
hasn't played all season.