Jaguars' Taylor strains hamstring in conditioning run
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars running back Fred Taylor began training camp Saturday the same way he did last year -- nursing an injury.
Taylor strained his right hamstring during a conditioning drill Thursday and was less than full speed when Jacksonville opened camp. It was hardly the start Taylor wanted, especially after spending all of last season recovering from a serious knee injury.
"I really wanted to come out the first day and give the fans something to ooh and ah about," said Taylor, who has been plagued by injuries the last four preseasons. "It's kind of sad that the timing is so screwed up. That's why it's so hard to understand. Somethings in life you can't figure out why they happen. They just do. I don't know why it happened. I was rested and I felt great."
Taylor injured his leg muscle while nearing the last of 20 striders, which are 50-yard sprints. He was required to perform the conditioning test because he skipped most of the team's voluntary, offseason workout program.
Instead of running and lifting weights in Jacksonville, the 30-year-old franchise running back opted to train near his home in South Florida.
He said the all-in-one training program at Perfect Competition helped him get in the best shape of his career. He weighed in at 224 pounds, 10 less than last year, and believed added leg strength would help him avoid recent leg injuries.
Maybe he was overconfident. After all, he declined a short rest between the first 10 sprints and the last 10, telling trainers he had been preparing for the striders by running the same exercise 30 times back home.
Then, moments later, he pulled up lame.
"It was just one of those things that happened," Taylor said. "It's keeping me limited at this point. I'll gradually work myself into full speed."
Probably so, but given Taylor's age and recent history -- he has missed seven of the last 19 games, rekindling the nickname "Fragile Fred" that haunted him early in his career -- the injury certainly has to raise a red flag.
Taylor even knew what reaction he would get from fans and skeptics.
"It's just the initial impression that I'm most disappointed about," he said. "That's fine. I expected that. That's just another reason why I'm going to be smart with everything. It's not major, but you've got to be smart early on in camp, so coaches are limiting my reps, which is good. I just wish I could do more because of how hard I worked in the offseason."
Taylor tore two ligaments in his left knee Dec. 19, 2004, missed the final two games of that season and hobbled through much of last year. He wore a knee brace in every game and practice, and never returned to full speed. He also sat out five games with an ankle injury, losing nearly $500,000 in incentives and essentially ending any chance he had of negotiating a new contract until after this season.
He finished with 787 yards on 194 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per run -- the second lowest in his eight-year career.
The Jaguars responded by drafting a running back for the fourth consecutive year. After adding LaBrandon Toefield (fourth round in 2003), Greg Jones (second round in 2004) and Alvin Pearman (fourth round in 2005), the team selected shifty and undersized back Maurice Drew in the second round in April.
How could anyone blame them, especially given Taylor's recent injury woes?
Taylor, who has two years remaining on his contract worth $2.55 million each season, missed part of training camp in 2003 with a bone bruise on a knee. He also sat out half of the 2004 preseason with a strained foot.
Knee surgery in January 2005 was much more significant, and now he has a strained hamstring that could become a nagging injury.
"We'll bring him along, and it'll be fine," Jags coach Jack Del Rio said. "From where we've been the last few years, where he's had a knee rehab and all the different things he's had to deal with, he's coming in fresh and in great shape. A mild strain will pass in a few days and we'll be ready to roll."
Del Rio also said Taylor's latest injury was no cause for concern.
"I look at what he's battled though, and to me, I think you commend guys that push and fight and accomplish all that he's accomplished despite having 11 guys attacking him every down," he said. "It's a hard position. A lot of guys get banged up, a lot of guys miss time. He's missed less than most. He's really been pretty extraordinary in the fact that he's been able to remain such an explosive weapon for us despite getting nicks and having some tough things to fight through."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press