Jags' Taylor finally makes Pro Bowl


Willie Parker, Fred Taylor
Willie Parker, Fred Taylor

Injured Steelers running back Willie Parker , left, visits with Jaguars running back Fred Taylor after a playoff game in Pittsburgh, on Saturday.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 8:29 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE — Jaguars running back Fred Taylor lost his title as the best player to never make the Pro Bowl.

He was added to the AFC roster Tuesday, replacing Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker. Parker broke a bone in his right leg last month and pulled out of the league’s all-star game, allowing Taylor to get his first Pro Bowl invitation.

Taylor finished fourth in balloting last month and was made the first alternate. He initially thought he missed out on a trip to Hawaii for the 10th consecutive season. But then Parker injured his leg two days after rosters were announced.

‘‘Whenever it came up, I said I’d cross that bridge whenever I get to it,’’ Taylor said Tuesday. ‘‘Now it’s here. It doesn’t change my approach at all. My team has been excited ever since I guess they understood what happened to Willie that particular week.’’

Taylor ranks 17th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list and had been the only player in the top 49 to never make it to Honolulu.

Taylor said finally making the Pro Bowl was enjoyable, but it won’t help the Jaguars defeat unbeaten New England in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs Saturday night.

‘‘I don’t think it’s going to do anything for us this week playing a team the caliber of the Patriots,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s good to see that it’s there, but it doesn’t change any of the routines.’’

Taylor ran for 1,202 yards this season and averaged a career-best 5.4 yards per carry — better than AFC selections LaDainian Tomlinson, Joseph Addai and Parker — and finished the regular season with five consecutive 100-yard games.

He also had two of the four longest runs in the league this season.

He ran 16 times for 48 yards and a touchdown last week at Pittsburgh before leaving the game in the fourth quarter because of leg cramps.

The Jaguars entered the fourth period with an 18-point lead, then watched it evaporate when the Steelers scored three consecutive touchdowns. Jacksonville pulled out a 31-29 victory after quarterback David Garrard ran for 32 yards on fourth down, setting up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal.

‘‘Thankfully we won the game,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘I don’t think I ever would have forgiven myself for that. But it really didn’t hurt us.’’

Taylor said he didn’t know what caused the cramps, but added they became painful after he ran about 60 yards following one of Garrard’s interceptions.

‘‘I really locked up after that,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘I’ll just try to hydrate a little bit more, eat a little bit better. I thought I did everything by the book. It was just something that happened.’’

So was getting to the Pro Bowl.

Taylor initially considered turning down a Pro Bowl invitation if either Tomlinson, Addai or Parker couldn’t make the trip for the Feb. 10 game — he even said ‘‘maybe the Pro Bowl doesn’t deserve Fred Taylor’’ — but his wife convinced him otherwise.

So he gladly accepted the offer Tuesday.

‘‘He’s very excited about receiving that honor,’’ coach Jack Del Rio said. ‘‘We’re happy for him. Fred’s been one of the all-time greats here in Jacksonville. We’re very happy for him individually. But I think Fred would tell you he’s most excited right now about the opportunity to pursue a championship.’’

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