NOTEBOOK: Taylor Back in Baltimore

Travis Taylor didn't explode onto the NFL scene like a former No. 10 overall draft pick might be expected to, but the Vikings have found some consistency in the Ravens' castoff.

Vikings receiver Travis Taylor is somewhat of a contradiction in what he says and how he was originally perceived by the Vikings.

Asked about his career earlier this year, he said he was limited by all the quarterback changes and lack of talent at that position in Baltimore. He was really looking forward to playing with Daunte Culpepper.

Now, not only is Culpepper rehabilitating from a serious knee injury in Taylor's home state of Florida, but with the Vikings preparing to play Baltimore and Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller coming off a career game on Monday Night Football, Taylor's answer has been refined.

"Kyle can play. Kyle is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, he just hasn't had the opportunities and nobody gave him a chance," Taylor said this week.

And, despite the part about not having many opportunities in Baltimore's run-first offense, Taylor said he didn't leave the Ravens on bad terms.

"It wasn't a bad taste. I just think it was time for both of us to move on. The Ravens were ready for something different, I was ready for something different," he said.

Actually, it's hard to believe Taylor could leave any team on bad terms. He rarely says anything controversial or even somewhat critical in his critiques of self and team. Even at the height of offensive frustration before Culpepper was injured, Taylor said the Vikings offense wasn't struggling, referencing his days in Baltimore when the defense carried that team to a Super Bowl title in 2000, Taylor's rookie season.

Now that the offense isn't taking advantage of improved defensive play in Minnesota, Taylor's explanation is the same one that the Vikings defense was using earlier in the season when it was struggling.

"It's been interesting for everybody as far as playing together. We've got a lot of new faces on offense. Everybody is trying to jell together. I'm not disappointed by the catches or anything like that. As long as we win, I'm happy," he said.

He can hardly be too disappointed by his receptions, as he's in line for the second-best season of his career.

After being the No. 10 overall selection of the Ravens in the 2000 NFL draft, Taylor's reception totals have read 28, 42, 61, 39 and 34 in his five seasons there. This year, his first with the Vikings, he has 42 catches with two games left.

In reality, Taylor targeted the Vikings much more than they targeted him as a free agent this offseason. And, even after meeting with him, the Vikings left him on the market while they made other free-agent moves before signing him as a value free agent.

"At first, I wasn't really enamored with him because I had heard he was just a slot receiver and I was like, 'Well I don't want a guy that is one-dimensional.' The coaches pressed me to take another look at him," Tice said of Taylor this week. "The one thing we noticed is that he is very hard to press on the line of scrimmage. I think that is kind of why we thought he'd be a slot receiver because there is a lot of press on the slot. When we sat down with him for dinner we realized he had some real good knowledge about the game. We realized he was very confident. We also knew he was a top-10 pick and you don't become a top-10 pick in this league if you don't have some talent and skills. So we signed him and he wasn't out on the field more than a couple days in minicamp and developmental camp to see that he wasn't just a slot guy.

"So that was very exciting to see that this was a guy that we were going to be able to play at all three positions. The next thing about him we realized is that he had been taught very well. Wherever he was, whether it be Florida or Baltimore, he had developed some really good habits. The last thing about him, when you are around him you realize how consistent he is and he is an excellent blocker. So he has a lot going for him. We were really fortunate to pick him up. He has done a lot for us this year."

The obvious challenge for Taylor this week will be the incredible wealth of talent in the Ravens defensive backfield.

"That defense is loaded," Taylor said in his typical understated way.

It's almost an all-star team in the defensive backfield with Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle and Deion Sanders at cornerback, along with strong safety Ed Reed, who is arguably the best at his position in the NFL.

Taylor's moxie will be tested, but you can be sure he won't excite his former teammates with anything controversial or exciting to say. He hopes to create the excitement on the field.

THE REPLACEMENT

Instead of sticking with Taylor in Baltimore, the Ravens went after former Tennessee Titans playmaker Derrick Mason. Mason has proved a bit more reliable, a bit more explosive and bit more outspoken.

Mason has 74 receptions so far and wants to be an even bigger part of Baltimore's offense.

"I was with Cris Carter for seven years. I understand a wide receiver wanting the ball more, believe me," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. "Derrick is like Cris in a sense, and I have no problem with that because I know in my heart of hearts Cris' maturity, the way he was when we finished in Minnesota. It was not a genuine 'I want the ball because I want the recognition, I want the catches, I want the money, I want the Pro Bowl.' It was, 'I can make a difference, so get the ball to me.' You've got to love that in a player. Derrick Mason has that quality about him. He believes he can make a difference, as does a Todd Heap."

Heap is one of the NFL's best tight ends, as recognized by former tight end Tice.

NOTES

  • Former Vikings kicker Jose Cortez was signed to the active roster of the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday. Cortez, who has played with the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings during a six-year NFL career, was with the 49ers for 12 games this season. He is expected to take over as Indianapolis' kickoff specialist for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

  • The Arizona Cardinals placed former Gophers and Vikings tackle Adam Haayer on injured reserve.

  • While the Vikings signed linebacker Phil Archer to the practice squad, they also had a workout for former Louisville linebacker Michael Brown.


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