Fair or not, ankle injury dents Taylor's rep again

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

I drew some heat in the comments section of a previous post for referring to New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor as "Fragile Fred" in the headline. Taylor

To all the readers out there whom I offended, I apologize. If I offended Taylor, then I apologize to him, too.

As I pointed out under the surprisingly controversial headline, Taylor generally has been reliable over the past seven years, missing just 12 games.

But the harsh reality is the latest injury is only going to solidify Taylor's career legacy as an injury-prone player. I wasn't the one who invented "Fragile Fred." He was saddled with that nickname about eight years ago in Jacksonville.

"When I would go behind closed doors, I would work out a little bit harder thinking that they called me Fragile Fred," Taylor told USA Today over the summer. "I knew I was never fragile."

But when most NFL fans think about Taylor, the first thing that pops into their heads is his injury history. The reputation was established early, when he missed 23 games from 1999 through 2001.

Yes, he has rushed for over 11,000 yards, but he never has been embraced as a true NFL star. He has been selected to one Pro Bowl, although he probably deserved a couple more trips to Honolulu. Taylor has appeared in only three playoff games since 1999.

Taylor is 33 years old. Reports have differed on the likelihood he will play again in 2009. Over the summer he signed a two-year contract worth $5 million.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss cited a source that said the injury wasn't expected to be a season-ender. The Boston Herald, with a lot of interesting details on the injury and the surgery, reported a friend of Taylor's says Taylor believes he'll play again this year.

The Boston Globe, however, painted a gloomier picture. An unnamed league source said Taylor probably was done for the year.