Fred Taylor (Phil Coale/AP)
When Fred Taylor signed a contract extension with the Jaguars a year ago in March, one of the key points that he stated at the time was the opportunity to play his entire career with the team that drafted him in 1998.
"If I stay healthy, I'll be able to finish my career with the Jaguars, which is a pretty big thing for me," he said. "That would mean a lot to me."
The key of course is staying healthy, and when you're a 32-year-old running back that has put in 10 years of taking a pounding from defenses, it's even more important. That's one of the reasons why Taylor has taken his offseason training so serious.
For the third year in a row, Taylor has bypassed the Jaguars' OTAs (organized team activities) in lieu of his own workout regimen in south Florida. It's proven dividends as Taylor has reported the last two years in better shape than he has in any previous seasons.
He did return to Jacksonville two weeks ago for the team's mandatory mini-camp and said he'll be in top form again by the end of July when the team reports for training camp.
"I wouldn't say I'm in the best shape ever right now, but it's just June. I'm working on it and am pacing myself," he said. "I tend to turn it up in the middle of the month until the middle of July. You tend to tone down the week before training camp.
"Give me about four weeks to really pick up some high-intensity conditioning."
Taylor has plenty of incentive to stay healthy and play at a peak level the next three years, financially and personally. Under the restructuring of his new contract, he receives a $1 million spring roster bonus for each year (he's already received this year's payment), and he's in line for $4, $5 and $6 million base salaries respectively starting this fall.
Last year, Taylor joined the exclusive 10,000-yard career rushing club (along with San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Warrick Dunn, now playing for Tampa Bay). If he plays three more seasons and maintains his 1,071 yards per-season average that he's posted his first 10 years, he could finish with 14,000 total rushing yards, which would put him among the top five all-time rushing leaders.
He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards in seven of his 10 NFL seasons, missing that mark in 1999, 2001 and 2005, the only three seasons when he played in less than 12 games due to injury.
"I can do it all still," he responded when asked what kind of load he can handle this season. "I still think I'm an every-down back. Even early in my career, that role was kind of taken away from me. I always felt I could still do goal line.
"I know I'm capable of doing third-down duties, two-minute offense, even first and second down, but because we have a guy the caliber of Maurice (Jones-Drew), there is no need for it at this point."