WASHINGTON — There will never be another Sean Taylor. NFL rulebooks have been changed in the decade since his untimely death, and nobody is allowed to play with that degree of physicality.
Even if they could.
But Taylor has still been an inspiration for a generation of players who grew up watching him play. Even if they can’t hit like Taylor hit, or abuse opposing players into committing turnovers, players like D.J. Swearinger have still learned to channel Taylor’s excellence.
That’s part of why Swearinger, after signing as a free agent in Washington, went to Su’a Cravens about the possibility of wearing No. 36. There has never been another No. 21 since Taylor’s death, but No. 36–which Taylor wore as a rookie–is the next best thing.
“I just felt like I needed to wear it,” Swearinger told CSN-Washington. “No. 36 is my original number, period. But on top of that, I wore it because of my dad and Sean Taylor. So that had to happen, no matter where I went.”
What better place to go than to join the defensive backfield where Taylor once roamed?
“When I came here, whatever the ways it was, I was paying it. I was seeing people putting me in 29 when I signed, putting me in 30,” he recalled. “There is no way I’m wearing either one of those numbers.”
Deals for numbers happen all the time, especially between NFL veterans and rookies.
Michael Phillips from the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported at the time of his signing that Swearinger paid Cravens $75,000 for the number.
“When I actually saw myself in the number, and to see another person with 36 in front of me, it was just uncomfortable,” Swearinger said with a cringe. “So, I had to make a deal to where I could buy the number off of Su’a, and I made it happen.”
Swearinger has made an instant impact on the Redskins.
Brought in to be a starter, Swearinger was elected defensive captain and has been a vocal presence since OTAs. In recent weeks, he went from being a solid performer to scary, logging three interceptions in three weeks, along with 15 total tackles.
The Redskins will likely never see another No. 21 patrolling the secondary. But seeing a highly productive No. 36 has been a highlight of the 2017 season.