Taylor gets chance to carry load with Vikes
By Dave Campbell AP Sports Writer MANKATO -- The last second-string running back to leave Baltimore for a starting job was Priest Holmes, who became a perennial Pro Bowl pick and touchdown machine upon arrival in Kansas City. Chester Taylor was t...
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MANKATO -- The last second-string running back to leave Baltimore for a starting job was Priest Holmes, who became a perennial Pro Bowl pick and touchdown machine upon arrival in Kansas City.
Chester Taylor was the latest Ravens reserve to look around. He landed in Minnesota, where the Vikings made him their featured back with a four-year contract worth up to $14.1 million.
Now comes the interesting part. How will the powerful yet unproven Taylor do in his first opportunity as a full-timer?
"It's really exciting. I'm really anxious. I can't wait for the season to start," said Taylor, a former University of Toledo star taken in the sixth round of the 2002 draft.
His best year was 2004, when he started four games and rushed 160 times for 714 yards, a 4.5 average, and two scores. Last season, he caught a career-best 41 passes for 292 yards. But Jamal Lewis was always in the way, and Taylor was never given the chance to carry the ball on an every-down basis.
The Vikings were willing to hand him that.
"We're going to feature a lot of different guys," coach Brad Childress said, "but yeah, we brought him in here and signed him as a starter."
There was some concern about his conditioning this spring, but Taylor showed up to training camp in shape and so far has been running all over the place during practice -- taking handoff after handoff and hauling in plenty of passes out of the backfield.
The offense Childress brought from Philadelphia, where he was the offensive coordinator, is predicated on spreading the ball around with shorter throws. So the backs better have good hands.
"When he was in Baltimore, when a running back would catch the ball, he'd be the guy. They'd take Jamal out on third downs ... and Chester was the guy who'd go out and make things happen," said receiver Travis Taylor, who was also a teammate with the Ravens for two years.
With a youthful face and a 5-foot-11 frame with 213 pounds, according to his listing on team publications, Taylor plays a lot tougher than he looks.
"He's a physical guy. A compact guy. He's got good eyes," Childress said.
Taylor, the receiver, went even further. "He's short, but he's built like a rock," he said.
Chester Taylor has averaged more than 97 yards in the four NFL games he's had with 20 or more carries, including back-to-back 100-yard games in December 2004 when Lewis had a sprained ankle.
"Being behind Jamal for four years, I had to have a lot of patience trying to wait on getting that start. I had a couple chances in Baltimore, and now with my number called I'm willing to step up right now," said Taylor, who was the runner-up to Marshall's Byron Leftwich, now the quarterback for Jacksonville, for the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year award in 2001.