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Jason's a Jet: 'The Fire's Still Burning Hot'


Jason Taylor arrived this morning at his new home office, the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, and signed his contract to change colors from the Aqua & Coral to the Green & White.

Even though he wasn't going before any large crowds this day, he was still dressed to the nines, moving lithely inside his immaculately cut gray pinstripe suit and, yes, lime green tie as he attended two media events, an intimate news conference before a battery of TV cameras and then a conference call with reporters.

Taylor admitted the setting in North Jersey compared to his beloved South Florida was "a little surreal" and "pretty ironic." But he showed no signs of nerves or regrets at leaving the team of 12 of his first 13 NFL seasons for his once-heated rival for Season No. 14.

In fact, he said all the right things today. No apologies for his sometimes heated exchanges with Jets fans over the years, but more an attitude of détente and big-play wait-and-see.

"This is a new chapter," Taylor said. "Things didn't work out in Miami, but I'm proud to be where I am now and I'm looking forward to creating some havoc for the Jets, winning some ballgames and winning some fans over here.

"I can't change everybody's mind, but I can help this team win some football games. In the meantime, I think we'll be all right."

One reason JT thinks things will be work is Rex Ryan. I asked Taylor when it sank in not that he would be signing with the Jets but when he first thought it would be possible.

"When I came up to visit," he said of his tour of the team complex and the New Jets Stadium two weeks ago. "The Jets showed me respect and they showed a desire to have me as part of their team. That's when I knew there was a chance I could come here. What better place to go than to start a new chapter under Rex?

"The Jets were one half away from going to the Super Bowl, they had the No. 1 defense in the league. For him to express interest in this defensive end-slash-outside linebacker from the rival Miami Dolphins, when it became clear we had to go in a different direction, there was no more flattering offer I needed than from the Jets."

Some Jets fans won't ever be won over. Some will take time but will come around with his production on the field. Along those lines, the question of Taylor's age — he'll be 36 in September before the Jets' Monday night season opener against the Ravens — and his production in '08 with Washington and last season back with Miami (10 sacks combined) have been brought up.

Taylor has heard the doubters.

"I understand they're going to have some questions about that, but I really can't worry about that," he said. "I've always had a chip on my shoulder my whole career. I was too small to play, too pretty — I've heard that before. I've always been told what I couldn't do. I'm 35 and now people say I can't do it anymore, I'm washed up, I can't get to the quarterback anymore. The chips keep growing. But the fire's still burning hot."

Last year he had two other strikes against him — playing the Sam linebacker spot with the 'Fins for the first time in his career and sustaining a shoulder injury that would need surgery. But he said he's ahead of schedule in his rehab from February surgery, and as Ryan said Tuesday, Taylor has come here to rush the passer.

As for the change of role last year, he explained:

"As a pass rusher, you need at-bats, to use a baseball term. You need to be able to set the tackle up, give him pass rushes repeatedly and try to break him down. Playing Sam was different. I didn't have the chance to do that. I like to think I still have the potential to ring up some big plays, game-changing plays. That's what I'm here for."

Again, Taylor knows words alone won't cut it, but he answered another question that Jets fans had: When will he get involved in Sal Alosi's offseason strength and conditioning program with his new teammates?

It's already begun.

"I had my green and white workout gear on today," he said. "I know I missed a good bit of it so far because I just signed today, but I'm here, I'm in the program doing what everybody else is doing. I'm fully committed to being the best I can be and helping the team. I'm no different than anybody else. I'll be here working and committed to it."

There is no question Taylor's got the engaging personality, the track record, the physical conditioning and the drive to thrive to make this move a success for him and for the Jets. But right now, before he takes the field at the June full-squad minicamp or training camp or for that Ravens game (not to mention Game 3 on Sunday night back down in Miami), it still comes back to that fan factor.

"Believe it or not, I have respect for the Jets fans," he said, smiling at some memories but by no means speaking facetiously. "I know we had our banter back and forth. I'm sure some Jets fans may not want to forgive me right away. I understand that. But I'm here to make plays and help this team win a championship.

"Somewhere along the way, they'll see that I'm not the devil."

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