Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.
Free agent impressive at corner
Originally published Aug. 5, 1985
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Free agent cornerback Ken Taylor won’t let himself believe he has made the team. He goes about his job in the Chicago Bears’ training camp here as if winning a spot hinges on every play.
In the back of his mind, he must know that he’s impressing the right people. He must know that, with a strong pre-season, he could be a starter in the Bears’ opener, now less than five weeks away.
But Taylor doesn’t like to admit to thinking about it.
Being a free agent, he said, “means I don’t have any room for mistakes. Nothing’s solid right now. Nobody has said, from the coach’s mouth, that I’m going to be on the team.”
Maybe not to him.
The question in defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s mind is not whether Taylor and Reggie Phillips, a second-round cornerback, will make the team. “I know they’ll stick,” Ryan said. “I don’t know whether they’ll start. They’re both players.”
Speaking of Taylor, he said, “The kid’s got good speed, he’s not afraid to hit and he’s got good intelligence. He’ll be around the league a long time.”
The same applies to Phillips, Ryan said. “He’s a competitor. He was a good choice. The free agent Taylor was a good choice, too. Somebody should have drafted him No. 1,” Ryan said, and laughed hard, perhaps at the thought that he’s got two fine young cornerbacks to push incumbents Mike Richardson and Leslie Frazier.
If Taylor is aware of his free-agent status, SMU product Phillips ignores his second-round label. “I have to prove myself to myself. I’d like to start, if possible. That’s what I’m working for,” he said. “Nobody’s giving anything to anyone. It’s the best man wins. Hopefully, I’m the best man.”
Oddly enough, Richardson was a second-round pick and Frazier a free agent, so the Bears might start a pair of free agents, a pair of second-rounders or a combination at corner.
“The guy who’s starting in front of me Frazier is aware of the competition. He’s not giving anything up. Competition makes you better,” Phillips said, adding that the rivalry has remained quite friendly. “I’ve learned so much playing behind Leslie.”
Best will play
“Everybody gets along surprisingly well,” Taylor added. “Even the vets have treated the rookies well. I was really shocked by that.”
“At least we’ve got some competition,” Ryan said. “The best two corners will play. It doesn’t mean spit to me whether they were drafted No. 1 or free agents. A lot of No. 1’s never play, and a lot of free agents make All-Pro.”
Taylor, who played at lowly Oregon State, said, “I was disappointed, but not surprised at not being drafted. Maybe it had
something to do with my playing at a school that hasn’t had a winning season in 15 years.” Although he was All-Pac 10 in his junior and senior seasons, he said, “I had an average senior year.”
Bears’ scout Don King said he liked Taylor because his talents were well-suited to the Bears’ attacking style of defense.
Taylor liked the Bears because they had a fine defense that offered opportunity at cornerback. “When I came here, I knew the Bears were No. 1 in defense. I was really excited about that.”
A mind game
For now, though, Taylor remains all business. “I’m not sure the public realizes how smart you have to be to play professional football, and even college football,” he said.
“There’s so much mental activity going on out there, maybe even more than the physical activity. It’s challenging. It really puts you to the test.” That’s why Taylor isn’t cluttering his mind with whether he’s won a job. When the time comes, he’ll know.