NFC-AFC PRO BOWL
Taylor and Merriman team up
The Dolphins defensive end says it's nothing personal
» Olin Kreutz is 1 of 3 players from the Bears to withdraw from the all-star game because of an injury
Jason Taylor wants it made clear he wasn't attacking Shawne Merriman personally.
The Dolphins defensive end spoke out strongly in December against players who fail tests for banned substances receiving postseason honors, such as playing in the Pro Bowl.
On Monday, it was reported that the NFL and the players union have agreed to such a ban, starting next year.
Now, Taylor is an AFC teammate of Merriman -- the Chargers outside linebacker who was suspended four games this season for failing a steroids test, prompting Taylor's stand.
"Somebody asked me about it," Taylor said yesterday after the AFC practice at the Ihilani Resort. "It wasn't like I went out and made a statement and called a press conference. Somebody asked me about it so I answered it truthfully. I said what I felt."
Taylor also said he doesn't have a problem playing in Saturday's game with Merriman, but he's happy the league is taking action on the issue of steroids and awards.
"It's not a problem. It's not like we're out here to fight each other, we're professionals, we're two grown men, we're teammates now and it's not that big of a deal. ... It was made more than what it should have been and it was never about Shawne Merriman and Jason Taylor," said Taylor, a 10-year NFL veteran.
"Sometimes it takes someone to speak up. Again, it wasn't a personal attack, it had nothing to do with an individual, it was the principle of it and what young kids in America are going through. I'm glad the league has done something about it. Sometimes it takes someone to have enough guts, I guess, to stand up and say something. I'm not a pioneer or anything I just spoke my opinion."
Merriman has said the failed test was due to a tainted supplement he ingested. He said he is not embarrassed to be at the Pro Bowl, and welcomes the new rule.
"The fans wanted me here. If the fans didn't want me here, I wouldn't have been here. But it was the fans who decided they wanted to see me play and I'm honored by that. I think I would disappoint the fans if I didn't show up," Merriman told the Denver Post yesterday. "I think it's a good rule for the NFL. That way you make sure every player got here on their own merits."
The first hints were when his gear didn't arrive with that of the other Chicago Bears and no locker space was set up for him.
Then yesterday afternoon, Olin Kreutz's agent, Kenny Zuckerman, said his client "hadn't decided yet" about playing in the Pro Bowl.
Kreutz's pull-out, due to a right knee injury, became official when the league announced Cowboys center Andre Gurode would replace the Saint Louis School graduate on the NFC roster.
This would've been the fifth Pro Bowl in a row for Kreutz, who played for the Bears in their Super Bowl loss Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts.
Another Bears player, linebacker Lance Briggs, was dropped from the NFC's roster because of a left-foot injury, the third Bears defensive star to relinquish his spot because of injuries.
Briggs will be replaced by Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks, who'll make his 10th straight Pro Bowl appearance after winning the MVP award in last season's game.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher dropped out of his sixth Pro Bowl trip Monday with an injured toe, while defensive lineman Tommie Harris relin- quished his spot after undergoing season-ending surgery in early December.
For the AFC, offensive tackle Matt Light of the Patriots replaces Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens. Ogden is out with an injury to a toe on his left foot.
LT and BB are OK: LaDainian Tomlinson said he and Bill Belichick resolved any hard feelings at the AFC team's meeting Monday night.
Tomlinson, the Chargers running back, and Belichick, the Patriots coach, ran afoul of each other after New England's playoff victory over San Diego, when the Patriots' Ellis Hobbs danced on the Chargers' logo. Tomlinson said the Patriots had "no class at all," and "maybe it comes from the head coach."
Tomlinson said he and Belichick patched up any bad feelings.
"He was joking around, having a good time with all the guys. We even joked about the game. It was a good situation. I told him that obviously I said some things that maybe I shouldn't have said," Tomlinson said. "In turn, Bill said he didn't even see Hobbs doing it, but after the game he said something to him about handling the situation better than what he did. It was real good. I was happy with our talk.
"In my opinion we didn't need to apologize for nothing. He didn't need to apologize to me and I felt like we were both going to move on from it. I think Bill understands a lot of guys, after a game in the heat of the moment you say a couple extra things that you might not want to say, but that's how it is sometimes. It doesn't mean I don't like him, he's a heck of a coach, I like Bill. But at the time I was very upset. I still feel the same way about the situation ... but when I sit back and think about it all I'm saying is I don't think Bill had any control over the way his players act."
The Associated Press contributed to this report