Taylor practices with Dolphins
DAVIE, Fla. -- As the final seconds of Tuesday's practice ticked off the scoreboard, Jason Taylor stood in the corner of the field enjoying a happy ending.
He wore a smile and an aqua No. 99 jersey, a souvenir of the reunion he had sought with the Miami Dolphins after a year of self-imposed exile.
"It felt like about five years," he said.
Taylor's back on the Dolphins' practice field this week for three days of full-squad workouts after signing a one-year deal last Wednesday for $1.5 million, incentives included. He played his first 11 NFL seasons in Miami and was so eager to return he walked away from an $8.5 million contract to remain with the Washington Redskins.
As he stood before the media for the first time since rejoining Miami, a Dolphins official introduced him as their prodigal son.
"This is where I wanted to be," Taylor said. "This is home. My heart was always here."
His return represents a happy ending but also a new beginning for the 34-year-old pass rusher. He'll be playing in a new scheme for a new coach and for Bill Parcells, who traded Taylor a year ago after their relationship became rocky.
Parcells was unhappy when Taylor spent the early part of 2008 in Los Angeles competing on "Dancing With the Stars" rather than in Davie working out with teammates. Taylor now says the rift was overblown by the media.
"There's not a problem with me and Bill Parcells," Taylor said. "Everyone wants to make this an issue. The perception out there that Bill and I were going to go to blows one day couldn't be further from the truth."
Easing any strain in that relationship was the bond Taylor forged with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. Taylor said they talked often in the past year.
"I told Tony last year when I was in L.A. that I wanted to play for him," Taylor said. "I told him when I got traded that I wanted to play for him. And throughout the season I would congratulate the guys here, and they knew how I felt about Tony and the team."
Sparano said he and Taylor discussed a reunion at length before the Dolphins made a contract offer.
"Jason and I spent a lot of time going through the details -- what's important to me, what's important to him," Sparano said. "The two of us shared a lot of things. It has really been open, good, healthy communications. It's why this whole thing worked out."
Sparano said Taylor returns with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after a disappointing year in Washington. He was plagued by injuries, struggled with a switch to left end and had only 3½ sacks, his lowest total since 1999.
"You need to be where you're going to be happy, where you fit, where you have the best opportunity to be successful," Taylor said. "I never had that opportunity in D.C. It wasn't a good fit and wasn't fair to them, and wasn't fair to me. Everybody should know I'm not a left end."
In Sparano's 3-4 scheme, Taylor will likely be an outside linebacker opposite 2008 AFC sack leader Joey Porter. The system has similarities to the defense used by Nick Saban, the Dolphins' coach when Taylor won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.
Porter joined the Dolphins the following year, and they sank to 1-15 under coach Cam Cameron. Porter and Taylor failed to click as a tandem in their one season together, but Porter predicts success under a different regime.
"The coaches will find ways for us to make plays together," Porter said. "They know what he can do best, and they know what I can do best. They're going to find ways to make it work.
"I'm just happy to have him back," he said. "A guy like that causes so many problems. To have a chance to play with him again is going to be a good deal."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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