Phil Taylor Sr.'s return to the NFL was put on hold again in August after the defensive lineman tore his left quad. Nearly two months later he's in good spirits as he attacks his rehab.
The momentum and optimism surrounding veteran defensive lineman Phil Taylor Sr.'s return to the NFL was suddenly halted during the Redskins' third preseason game this year, when a tear of his left quad forced the team to place him on Injured Reserve for the season.
Less than two months later, after a successful surgery, Taylor is making promising strides in his recovery and rehab. After getting rid of crutches last week, Taylor said Tuesday that he was able to take the brace off his quad, allowing him to walk upright without assistance for the first time since his injury.
"Rehab is going to start getting more intense now that I can walk," Taylor said. "I'm looking forward to the journey. It's an awesome thing. It sucks to be hurt, but it's an awesome thing to be here and still fighting to play the game you love."
Taylor injured his quad early in the Redskins' 23-17 victory over the Bengals. He and teammates initially thought it might be just a deep thigh bruise, but MRI results indicated a tear the next day, further delaying Taylor's comeback another year. After not having played a regular season game since 2014, the news initially stung.
"Just working my way back, being out of the game for two years and working my way back to getting in the rotation and being on the field a lot and getting the chance to be a starter, it was tough," Taylor said. "Playing for my hometown team, all the momentum going in and it's the nature of the beast called the NFL, things happen and unfortunately I got hurt.
"I was in a tough place when Dr. West told me," Taylor added. "At the same time, I thought to myself I've been here before. I made it this far, and I can do it again."
Taylor's optimism and general good spirits come from those previous experiences, multiple knee injuries, which led to surgical scopes, hampering his game and forcing him off the field for multiple stints early in his career with the Browns. It taught him perserverance.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Taylor signed with the Broncos in 2016 but hurt his knee again during training camp and was placed on the injured list before being released. The Redskins called him at the end of last season, around the time Taylor had considered retiring, and he prepared for another opportunity. Despite another injury and setback, he has leaned on his past to inform the way he approaches an often solitary experience.
"In Cleveland when I got hurt, it was like, I distanced myself, I put myself into these moods and I wasn't watching football," Taylor said. "Now, I'm still watching all the games. When I got hurt in Cleveland I didn't watch football in those two years. It's more of a mental thing than a physical thing. It is physical because you're injured, but at the same time…if you're injured, and you let your mind race and start thinking about other things, then that's when you can go into a dark place. Keep a good support staff around you, people that motivate you and keep you going and pushing yourself, that's how you come out on top."
In the time he isn't spending at the team facility receiving treatment and rehabbing, Taylor has the advantage of spending more time with his parents, who live in the area. He's also in communication with his teammates, who he sees around the building and has enjoyed watching them play.
"Every week watching these guys get after it, it's not a surprise," Taylor said. "I was around these guys all the time every day at camp and it's just really showing how Coach [Jim] Tomsula coaches us and the passion he has for his guys in that room and the passion he has for the game, it really shows how the defensive line plays out there… It shows how the whole backend plays, it's awesome."
And yes, Taylor looks forward to speaking with Tomsula just as much as anyone when he visits the building.
"I was messing with him at the facility today," Taylor said with a laugh. "I ran into him and I was messing with him about the Oakland game. He looked like a little mob boss in that game. He's a confident coach and it shows in all his guys."
Even the ones who can't play.