The times certainly have changed.
Sure, the Jets and the Dolphins probably won’t exchange recipes Monday night, but Jason Taylor’s season of service with the Jets in 2010 has changed the rhetoric between South Florida and New Jersey.
“JT was a real professional about the way he went about his business, the way he interacted with other plays on the team,” said Jets QB Mark Sanchez on Thursday. “He was respectful of the trainers and the equipment staff. He was the ultimate pro. We loved having him and it’s going to be fun to face him again.”
Taylor started eight regular-season games and appeared in 15 for the Jets last year, racking up five sacks, two forced fumbles and two recoveries along with 35 tackles.
“I’m happy we had him last year. Jason played great for us last year,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “He made some huge plays. I thought Jason was great for this football team, his presence on the field and in the locker room as well. He’s a class act all the way, so I don’t regret signing Jason Taylor here for one second.”
Ryan would have been happy to have Taylor return for a second season, but the Dolphins had renewed interest in the 37-year-old. So he decided to return to Miami for his 15th pro season and 13th with the ‘Fins.
“I had a great time,” said Taylor on a conference call of his time with the Jets. “There are probably some people in Miami who don’t want to hear that, but the fact of the matter is I enjoyed myself last year. We had a good bit of success. Didn’t go quite as far as we would have liked, but the journey was a lot of fun.”
Jets OLB Jamaal Westerman, who attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, looked up to Taylor when the latter was in his prime. Now a starter with Taylor gone and Bryan Thomas on injured reserve, Westerman used last season to learn from one of the game’s greatest pass rushers.
“He has a tremendous get-off, long arms and he really knows how to work throughout the game,” Westerman said. “You’ve seen him do it all throughout his career, kind of set guys up. Even last year he had some big games for us. He was a very good player. It was fun playing with him and learning from him also.”
It might have been odd to see Taylor in Green & White, but he had no trouble adapting to a locker room. He was well-liked from the start and his former ‘mates continue to rave about him.
“It was great to cross paths like that,” said NT Sione Pouha. “You have tons of respect for an individual like that. He was a great teammate.”
Jets Nation had a more difficult time embracing the man who once said of some fans, “Jets fans take the C-L out of class.” But many did embrace him and the good-natured Taylor was cheered in 2010. But he isn’t expecting a warm reception Monday night when he turns heel again on the visiting sideline.
“I’m sure I’ll be booed. I tried to do my best to make them cheer last year, but being on the other side of the coin now, I’ll get my fair share of boos, which is to be expected,” he said. “They’re Jets fans and they should be. They’re very passionate about their team and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
A veteran of 221 regular-season contests, Taylor has an interesting take on the matchup between the 0-4 ‘Fins and the 2-3 Jets.
“There’s no reason to be desperate. You start being desperate, you do things outside of yourself, you start to take too many risks, and you end up making mistakes because you’re playing with desperation. You don’t need to do that. Just have a sense of urgency. And trust me, we fully anticipate they will have that sense of urgency and focus, and we’re going to have the same thing.”
You wonder if this will be Taylor’s last appearance as a visitor in the rivalry. The teams meet again in Miami on Jan. 1, 2012 and the Jets hope to have playoffs on their radar by then.
“We’ll be excited to see him before the game. And then during the game, we have to get after him, we have to block him,” Sanchez said. “After the game, we’ll say good luck and stay healthy. But hopefully we win this thing.”
Tags: Jamaal Westerman, Jason Taylor, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins
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