Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor is optimistic he’ll be able to play this year, though he vowed to remain patient as he recovers from a torn left pectoral muscle.
“I’m itching to get back, but I’m not gonna rush it,” Taylor told reporters today. “When I know it’s time for me to be out there, I’ll get out there.”
Taylor stopped by the NFL Rookie Symposium PLAY 60 Youth Football Clinic at the Browns’ headquarters in Berea to catch up with former Baylor University teammate and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. The NFC rookies participated in the camp for youngsters today, and their AFC counterparts, including members of the Browns’ 2012 draft class, will do the same Friday. As part of the symposium, all the rookies go through orientation at the Bertram Inn & Conference Center in Aurora and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton this week.
Taylor hopes to be on the field for another reunion with Griffin when the Redskins visit the Browns on Dec. 16. The 6-foot-3, 335-pound Taylor suffered the torn pectoral May 10 while bench-pressing more than 300 pounds. He had surgery May 16.
“I really didn’t know what happened because it actually didn’t hurt that much,” Taylor said. “I mean I thought I had just strained it. But after the MRI, obviously it wasn’t just a strain.”
Taylor is expected to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. After six weeks elapse, there’s a 21-day window in which he would be eligible to begin practicing. On May 21, Browns General Manager Tom Heckert said Taylor probably would be ready to play again by late October or early November.
Taylor, however, wouldn’t give a timetable for his return. He said he isn’t lifting weights yet, but he’s been doing range-of-motion exercises.
Browns middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who missed 26 consecutive games from 2009-10 with two torn pectoral muscles and made a successful comeback last season, has given Taylor advice.
“Yeah, I talked to him,” Taylor said. “He gave me a lot of words of encouragement [and said] not to come back too early obviously, just to keep my head up and keep working hard.”
The loss of Taylor, the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft, is a blow to the Browns’ defense. As a rookie, he had 59 tackles, including six for loss and four sacks.
Last month, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron identified four players who will compete in training camp to replace Taylor in the starting lineup: veterans Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering and rookies John Hughes, a third-round pick, and Billy Winn, a sixth-round selection. Paxson took most of the first-team reps throughout organized team activities and minicamp.
“We won’t skip a beat,” Taylor said. “Paxson is right behind me, and Paxson’s a great guy. … [Hughes and Winn are] gonna play a lot this year. They’re learning. We’re all doing drills together, watching tape and things like that.”
Not long ago, Taylor was adjusting to the NFL much like Hughes and Winn are now. Along the way, he learned an important lesson, and it should help him as he attempts to overcome a significant injury.
“You’ve just gotta have that mental toughness ‘cause it’s a long season,” Taylor said. “You’ve got meetings all day, every day. If you don’t have that mental toughness, it’ll get you.”