JT on the Offensive

Jason Taylor's main competition for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors very well might come from San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. But Merriman's candidacy has been the subject of much debate because of his suspension this season for violating the NFL's steroid policy. Taylor spoke up about the issue Wednesday during a conference call with Indianapolis Colts media.

"I think Shawne's had a good year," Taylor said. "You watch him play any week, he's always making plays. He's one of the best young talents we have in this game right now, as far as defensively and he's had an unbelievable year. With that being said, there are certain rules and guidelines we have to abide by to play in this game and to fail the steroid policy is ... you know a performance-enhancing drug is, obviously, what it is. You enhance your performance by doing that.

"You fail that test, I think it's not right, it's against the rules and ultimately I think it's sending the wrong message to the youth in America and the people who look at this game not only as entertainment purposes but also to learn lessons from it, and some of the young kids who are playing football, you really shouldn't be able to fail a test like that and play in this league to begin with. I don't think it's right. But to make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message."

Despite missing four games because of his suspension, Merriman currently is leads the NFL with 16.0 sacks, and there is no denying what he has done on the field this season.

"If I wasn't having the kind of season I'm having, this wouldn't even be a conversation," Merriman said. ``The NFL will always have the level of integrity. That's what makes the NFL. In my situation, everything happened in an appropriate way. I sat out my four games, my money was taken away from me, my four games were taken away from me, and I came back and played my rear off."

But it seems likely some voters will disqualify him for Defensive Player of the Year recognition because of the suspension.

Besides, Taylor's credentials -- highlighted by an amazing 10 forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed -- probably will be enough to get him the award anyway.

Alain Poupart is the associate publisher for Dolphin Digest on the Scout.com network.

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