GLENDALE, Ariz. – Kerry Taylor doesn’t feel like a rookie, but he’s playing that role in the Cardinals locker room.
Because the players’ digs at University of Phoenix Stadium can’t hold everyone on the 90-man training camp roster, and because they are rookies, the first-year guys are relegated to a separate locker room.
Taylor left Arizona State after the 2010 season and has bounced around camps and practice squads with the Packers, Patriots, 49ers, Vikings and Cardinals. But because he’s only been on a 53-man roster for one game — last season when he was elevated for the Cards’ season finale against the 49ers — Taylor is still a rookie by NFL standards.
That means he is subject to rookie treatment and rookie talk.
“I’m not going to complain about it. If I’m on the 53, I’ll be in here next year. It’s different in there with the rookies, though, man,” he told reporters in the main locker room after the Cardinals beat the Cowboys on Saturday. “Out here, it’s grown conversations. Back there, it’s more like high school. It’s two totally different worlds.”
Taylor is doing what he can to be a part of the NFL’s first world. He hauled in four of the six passes thrown his way, totaling 85 yards in Saturday’s win. But it’s one pass he missed that’s eating at him.
With the Cardinals in the red zone in the second quarter, Taylor couldn’t stretch far enough for a Drew Stanton pass that glanced off his fingertips in the back of the end zone.
“That’s a play I’ve got to find a way to make,” he said.
Unfortunately for Taylor, his coach Bruce Arians agreed, even if most observers thought the catch would have made national highlight reels.
“This is the NFL. When you get both hands on the ball, you’ve got to catch it,” Arians said. “Kerry just has to catch the ball. Everything in that play was executed perfectly, and it’s extended right where you want to catch it. Everything in the red zone is tough. I call it grimy; it’s the grimy area. You’ve got to make grimy catches.”
Despite the missed opportunity — one of many the Cardinals had in the red zone on Saturday — Taylor made a positive impression against Dallas.
“He had a solid game — had a good week of practice having missed a week,” Arians said. “It was a game that he should flourish in because he’s a very smart guy, and they’re a zone-oriented football team. He knows how to get open.”
Before he suffered a hamstring injury that shelved him for part of camp, Taylor had ascended to the fourth receiver slot behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and ahead of Jaron Brown, Jarrett Dillard, Robert Gill, Charles Hawkins and Robby Toma.
Whether he can regain that spot, and whether that will mean anything when teams make roster cuts and other receivers become available via waivers remains to be seen. But Taylor is enjoying the ride after a two-year odyssey through camps that has sometimes left him feeling lost.
“I went everywhere from the far East Coast to the far West Coast,” said Taylor, who led the Sun Devils with 54 receptions for 699 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. “When you’re trying to learn the playbook, learn new teammates and learn your way around the city, it was a lot to mentally go through.”
When he joined the Cardinals practice squad last year, Taylor, who played high school ball at Chandler Hamilton High, said it was easier to focus solely on football again, even if all his memories of home weren’t cherished.
Taylor made waves two years ago when he ripped former ASU coach Dennis Erickson (now the co-offensive coordinator at Utah) on Twitter, saying: “I want ASU to win Pac12 Championships, all us ASU fans do. But in order for that to happen we need a new Head Coach.”
Taylor didn’t back off that opinion on Monday.
“It was probably the worst college experience anyone could ever go through, from the way practice was run to the way the coaches game-planned — or lack thereof,” Taylor said. “I ran three routes the whole time I was in college. I never really got to show what I could do and that probably hurt my draft stock; probably affected why I didn’t get drafted.”
With all of that in the past, Taylor can taste his dream.
“This is the first place I’ve had a real opportunity,” he said. “I’ve always been in places where the numbers game was stacked against me. Here, there’s room for a free agent to make the squad.
“For me, this is three years coming now. I’m anxious, and I feel like I’m pretty close to my goal, but I’m not there yet. I have to work even harder now. Don’t give them a reason these next two weeks to cut me or not want me.”