ASHBURN, Va. — When Phil Taylor wanted to call it a career, his wife and son pushed back.
Taylor's wife, Dajana, told him he needed to get back on the football field, and son Phil Jr. didn't want to see his father give up on the dream of playing in the NFL.
"They kept my will in it, and I kept going at it," Taylor said. "I might not have been in a place I wanted to be mentally, but at the same time I kept fighting to get back out here."
Almost three years since he last played in a regular-season NFL game, Taylor is in camp with the Washington Redskins and looking like someone who hasn't been out nearly that long. Taylor, 29, said it feels like he's been out much longer than the calendar indicates after knee injuries derailed him, but teammates don't see any sign of that.
"I was actually pretty surprised to hear that he had been out that long because the way he's been playing, he looks like he did in 2011 when he was a first-round pick," said Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who was drafted five picks ahead of Taylor and kept close tabs on the Baylor product. "I didn't realize he'd been out that long just because of the way he's been playing and how much of a force he's been throughout camp."
Taylor, who had 59 tackles and four sacks as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 2011, has performed well at camp and in Washington's first preseason game at Baltimore last week. The Washington-area native believes he still has a lot to prove as the preseason continues Saturday against Green Bay but isn't necessarily trying to impress coaches.
"I'm just trying to show people what I can do," Taylor said. "I'm feeling better. That's the main thing. I'm getting in the shape that I was when I wasn't injured. Just doing everything day to day."
A chest injury cost Taylor half of the 2012 season, and knee problems led to Cleveland releasing him in September 2015. The Denver Broncos signed him last year but released him before the season started.
Taylor considered retirement until the Redskins called agent Peter Schaffer in January and expressed interest in signing him. With his wife's help, Taylor kept his confidence up and worked out with the Redskins.
He looked so good that coach Jay Gruden didn't realize Taylor was a so-called "street" free agent who had been without a team. Seeing a "big, giant man" who had injuries take a toll, Gruden is thrilled at Taylor's recovery process.
"He's in great shape right now," Gruden said. "I think he's got great confidence in his recovered injuries and he's in a good spot, mentally and physically."
Veteran defensive line coach Jim Tomsula loves being around Taylor, who showed in college and the pros he can be a dominant player. And he appreciates Taylor's journey back to the NFL.
"What a story there," Tomsula said. "You're telling me Phil Taylor financially needs to play football? Don't you love that? He doesn't have to do this, so what does that tell you? He's here for the right reasons."
Taylor said love of football - and a jab or two from his family - made him want to return. Not money.
On a $775,000, one-year deal, Taylor isn't doing it for the money but rather that chance to show he can still play.
"I'm coming out here doing what I've got to do," he said. "I'm not comparing what I used to do to now and just showing what I can do now."
With Taylor, Ziggy Hood, first-round pick Jonathan Allen and others competing for jobs and roles on the defensive line, it would be foolish to assume anything is a lock. But Taylor is a good bet to make the Redskins' roster if he continues to show glimpses of what he was a few years ago.
"He obviously hasn't played for a couple years, but he's also been a first-round draft pick and been a really productive player," Kerrigan said. "He's seen a lot in this league personally and team-wise, so I think having that kind of experience will allow him to be a good leader for that D-line."
NOTES: TE Jordan Reed, who has been on the physically unable to perform list with a left big toe injury, expects to practice next week. ... WR Josh Doctson said he feels good after missing time with a hamstring injury. Coach Jay Gruden said he is a game-time decision for Saturday. ... Gruden ruled out LB Junior Galette (hamstring), S Su'a Cravens (knee) and WR Maurice Harris (knee) for the Packers game.
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. contributed to this report
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