Longtime NFL pass-rushing king Jason Taylor will dance his way out of his fifteenth and final season in the NFL with what he hopes is a flourish. On Wednesday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins outside linebacker announced his retirement and will play his last game on Sunday against the New York Jets.
Taylor became one of the most feared defensive players of his generation, his No. 99 frequently in the opposition's backfield. Six times in his career, all in a span between 2000 - 2007, Taylor had double digit sack totals in a season. This span of dominance off the edge included a career high 18.5 sacks in 2002. He is the current NFL sack leader with 139.5 sacks, including seven this season.
"It's been a great run in some ways but this will be my last game as a Miami Dolphin and as a professional football player so I plan on looking forward to enjoying this week and soaking it all in for the next few days," Taylor said. "Obviously we have a game left to play. There will be a time for thank yous and good-byes and all that. This is not the time. But I will say that this will be my last game as a NFL football player so I look forward to it."
All told, 13 of his 15 NFL seasons were in Miami where he enjoys near legendary status. A product of the football rich blue-collar western Pennsylvania area, Taylor is arguably the best player ever produced by Akron, where he was a third round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
He is also known for his off the field presence, including prominent endorsement deals and a well-publicized run on Dancing with the Stars, where he was iced in the finals by figure skating star Kristi Yamaguchi.
"I want to thank Jason for all he has done for the Dolphins and the South Florida community," temam owner Steve Ross said in a statement. "His contributions on the field as one of the greatest players in team history will be remembered by Dolphin fans for years to come, and his charitable works off the field that has benefited so many people will leave a timeless legacy of his community service.
"While he may be retiring as a player, he will always remain an integral part of the Dolphin family, contributing to the team and the community he has grown to love. We congratulate him for all he has done, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with him as he begins the next chapter of his life."
The irony of Sunday for Taylor will be that the Jets are one of three teams Taylor played for in his career, which included a one year stintwith the Washington Redskins in 2008. Taylor re-signed with the Dolphins in 2009 but then a season later inked a controversial free agent deal to stay in the division and play for the Jets, perhaps the biggest rival of the Dolphins.
He had five sacks last year including a pivotal safety in a 22-17 Week 15 win in Pittsburgh in what was an underwhelming year in New York. Dolphins head coach Todd Bowles said "it doesn't matter whether it's his last game or the Jets" as he expects his linebacker to play with his notorious intensity and fire.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan said he knows the Dolphins "will be pumped for Jason" but Taylor doesn't seem to be caught up in the emotions yet, even if it is against an old team, a current rival in his last game.
"It's great to have a chance to walk away and do it in front of your home crowd in a city that means a lot to you against an opponent that you've had a tremendous history against. I want to win. I want to win the game. I don't want to win the game so I can say I won my last game. This is not about Jason Taylor and my career and all that stuff. It's not about that," Taylor said.
"I'm going to do my part Sunday to help win this thing. Obviously the Jets are the opponent. I'd like to beat them and go from there. There's a lot of coincidence in all that stuff. People talk about it but at the end of the day I just want to win."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer