- The Washington Times
Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Washington Football Team will retire the late Sean Taylor‘s No. 21 jersey before Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the team announced Thursday.

Taylor, the team’s iconic safety, played four seasons for Washington until he was murdered in a home invasion in November 2007.

No one has worn the jersey number for Washington since then, but the team will now formally prevent anyone from doing so. Members of Taylor‘s family will join the team for a pre-game ceremony in which the former safety will be honored and the number will be retired.

Thursday’s announcement comes on just days’ notice before the game and amid renewed calls for the NFL to release a full report from the league’s investigation into Washington‘s workplace misconduct.

This week, Jon Gruden resigned as coach from the Las Vegas Raiders due to leaked emails that were originally unearthed during the league’s investigation into Washington. The messages were a part of 650,000 emails discovered, and the NFL has since faced pressure to release the rest of the documents. 

A team spokesperson said the move to retire Taylor‘s jersey was in the works for months, even before the start of the regular season. 

“We apologize to fans who would have liked more notice and will continue to share with fans ways we will be celebrating Sean Taylor’s legacy over the next month,” the team said. 

Taylor, the fifth overall draft pick in 2004 out of Miami, becomes just the third player to have his number officially retired by the team — joining Sammy Baugh (33) and Bobby Mitchell (49). Other numbers — such as Darrell Green’s No. 28, John Riggins’ No. 44 and Art Monk’s No. 81 — have also been informally retired. 

In four seasons, Taylor earned two Pro Bowl selections (2006, 2007) and a second-team All-Pro selection in 2007. The awards in 2007 were given after his death. 

“I came into the NFL the same year as Sean Taylor and immediately his athletic ability, resilience, grit, and relentless work ethic set him apart. I and many others looked to him as a role model,” team president Jason Wright said in a statement. “The fact that he was tragically taken so early hurt our player community, but also our fans, coaches, and staff. We will continue to remember him and hold him up as an example of professionalism and excellence, and we will all strive to mirror his excellence in our own ways.”

Taylor‘s jersey retirement is part of the team’s “Alumni Homecoming” weekend. Other alumni at the game will be honored at halftime, the team said. 

The first 10,000 fans who show up to FedEx Field for Sunday’s game will receive a commemorative Sean Taylor rally towel. Other tributes to the safety include players wearing helmet stickers that pay homage to the safety and full-time staff wearing a No. 21 lapel pin on gameday. The team will also formally commemorate the road leading up to FedEx Field, renamed as “Sean Taylor Road.” 

Taylor wore No. 36 as a rookie, but then changed to No. 21 the following year. Many safeties around the league have admitted to wearing the number in his honor. That includes Washington safety Landon Collins, who dawned the number when he played for the New York Giants.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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