Travis Taylor has never been a 1,000-yard receiver, and he's not likely to change that this year either. What Taylor has changed is the quarterback throwing the ball to him and his offensive teammates.
Sure, Taylor had been through nearly a dozen different quarterbacks in
five years with the Baltimore Ravens, but none of them have been as good as
what he will experience this year.
"We had been through 11 different quarterbacks in Baltimore in five
years. Then you come here with No. 11 (Daunte Culpepper), who knows
football, understands the game and does good things on the football field so
you can do a lot more," Taylor said.
That was one of the reasons he turned down the recruitment efforts by
Tampa Bay, Seattle and Carolina.
What was the deciding factor in coming to Minnesota?
"No. 11 and the offense," Taylor said simply. "Seattle pushed hard, but
then you look at the moves the Vikes made - signing Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper came in, Pat Williams, Napoleon Harris, they were trying to go
somewhere, and that's the biggest thing."
The trading of Randy Moss to Oakland didn't have a big effect on Taylor'
s decision to come to Minnesota, despite the apparent increased opportunity
in trying to fill a hole left by a future Hall of Famer.
"I wouldn't say that, because you have a guy like Nate Burleson here.
Then you have Marcus Robinson, Kelly Campbell, Jermaine Wiggins. There were
a lot of balls to go around," he said. "I didn't think the biggest thing was
the Moss trade. The biggest thing is that they were trying to go somewhere.
Adding the pieces to the defense was a good addition so I wanted to be a
part of this."
Taylor said he got to know what kind of a person Culpepper was from
their college days, when Taylor was playing at the University of Florida and
Culpepper was at the smaller University of Central Florida.
After spring practices at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facilities,
Taylor said the biggest transition wasn't the kind of offense the Vikings
were running, rather the focus of the offense.
"We've got a similar offense in Baltimore, so covering the offense was
pretty simple. The transition that's been a big difference has been coming
to a passing team from a running team," he said. "The things that this
offense does - having the balls thrown in practice, the situations they put
you in - every play is a pass play. You've got to love that."
It wasn't that way in Baltimore.
Former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick, who coached the
likes of Randall Cunningham, Brad Johnson, Robert Smith, Randy Moss and Cris Carter to a record-breaking season in 1998, became the head coach in
Baltimore the next season. Without the offensive personnel of the Vikings,
it didn't take long for Billick to shift gears and focus his new Ravens team
on defense and a strong running game on offense.
The transformation of the mad offensive scientist didn't surprise
"He won a world championship on defense and real good running back in
Jamal Lewis. As a rookie, I think Jamal had 1,300 yards rushing and the
defense set the all-time scoring record," Taylor said. "Anytime you do that
and win your first championship, if it's not broke, don't fix it."
The ability of the Vikings to fix their broken down defense - and the
ability of Culpepper on the other side - are exactly why Taylor is now in
Minnesota looking for another championship.
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