Taylor's locker encased in Plexiglas as team tries to cope
ASHBURN, Va. -- Sean Taylor's locker has been sealed in Plexiglas. The contents haven't been disturbed, and the stool with his name on it still sits in front.
Clinton Portis can't bear to look at it.
"I stay out of the locker room," Portis said. "My locker is next to his. A lot of guys will be over to the locker and looking up and seeing the picture of Sean. Seeing that locker cased up, seeing that seat sit right there, it's like an emptiness. It's a shock that you can't look up and see him, and won't look up and see him again."
Portis and receiver Santana Moss, the two Redskins players closest to Taylor, and the coach who thought of him as a son spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the 24-year-old safety was shot to death.
Even as the team inched closer to normalcy with a practice that was livelier than the day before and questions from reporters that actually dealt with football, the comments from Portis, Moss and assistant coach Gregg Williams reinforced how much grieving remains.
"The best way I know how to handle this situation is the way Sean would have handled it," said Moss, who, like Taylor and Portis, attended the University of Miami. "He would have mourned for the moment that we had to mourn, but he would have went out there and laced them up, and played like no other."
The investigation into Taylor's death continued Thursday in Miami, where police have said they suspect Taylor was the victim of a random burglary when he was shot at his home early Monday. Taylor died the next day.
Police also are investigating a possible connection to a Nov. 17 break-in at Taylor's home, but Taylor was such a private man that neither Moss nor Portis knew anything about the first incident.
"That's the type of guy Sean was," Moss said. "You'd never know what was going on with him, good or bad."
Both said it was worth paying attention to Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle, who said Wednesday that he didn't believe Taylor's killing was a random event. Rolle said Taylor had many enemies on the streets of Miami and that "they've been targeting him for three years now."
"Antrel grew up with Sean, he knows the neighborhood, he knows the people," Portis said. "He'll hear more conversations than you would hear or I would hear. They're still from the same part of town. Maybe he knew something we didn't know. It doesn't matter if people were targeting him or not, but at the same time we need to find who did it."
Portis said he considered wearing Taylor's No. 21 jersey in Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills but decided against it.
"Time after time I always told you all that he was the best player I've ever seen," Portis said. "For me to put that jersey on, I can't live up to those expectations. I can't be Sean Taylor, so I wouldn't even try."
A public viewing for Taylor is scheduled Sunday in Miami, and the entire Redskins organization plans to fly to Florida to attend the funeral Monday, three days before a game against the Chicago Bears.
In Washington, D.C., some fans brought a "Walking Book of Condolences" to one of the city's poorest neighborhoods to give fans who couldn't get to Redskins Park a chance to express their condolences.
Willie Mae Cobb, 63, was among those who showed up at the Anacostia Metro station. She brought a poem that she had pasted on red cardboard along with newspaper photos of Taylor.
"I really enjoyed his playing, and my heart goes out especially to his baby girl and his girlfriend," Cobb said. "Even though he went through troubles, he came around and all that was behind him," she added.
At Redskins Park, Williams and Moss also shared emotional anecdotes about Taylor. Williams, who often has spoken of the "tough love" he gave Taylor over the years, was often seen getting in Taylor's face on the sidelines.
"He could see me losing it a little," Williams said. "And he would look at me and smile and say, 'Hey, coach that play is over, get on to the next one.' He would immediately put me into 'I have a job to do.' We had a synergy back and forth in those difficult times, but we built that trust and love for each other."
Williams said memories of Taylor have helped him focus on football this week.
"When I got the phone call and was grieving strongly, I felt a presence," he said. "And the presence I felt was 'Coach, that play's over, get onto the next. I'm watching you.' I got a job to do. Get on to the next. He's watching me."
Moss said Taylor had a "different kind of glow" about him last week, particularly on Thanksgiving Day. The usually introverted Taylor went out of his way to wish coaches and teammates a happy holiday and was talking about his 18-month-old daughter.
Moss wondered if Taylor's mood foreshadowed what was about to happen, that Taylor was meant to leave his teammates on an upbeat note.
"It was unusual for Sean," Moss said. "I mean, he was in high spirits. It was almost like when it happened, I thought back on those couple of days. And it was something, like, it was a message right then and there that we didn't see at the time. You never know."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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Sean Taylor: 1983-2007
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died Nov. 27, a day after the Pro Bowl player was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. Four suspects are in custody and have been charged with first-degree felony murder and armed burglary.
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