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Former NFL RB Fred Taylor says he doesn't hold a grudge against NFL, doctors

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said his string of tweets about discovering new injuries following a recent group of tests was not meant as a criticism of the medical care he received as a player.

Nor, he said, was it an accusation that the Jaguars, the team physicians or the NFL hid injuries from him during a 13-year career that ended after the 2010 season.

Taylor said Thursday he just wanted to bring attention to the fact that while the issue of concussions and their aftermath are at the forefront of the NFL right now, players also deal with other medical issues after their careers end.

"This is more of an attempt to see things be avoided," Taylor told ESPN in an exclusive phone interview. "Guys before me improved the game. Guys before me improved the healthcare. The league is great. They have a lot of benefits for us, a lot of resources. I salute them for what they've done, but at the same time there's other things that could be done.

"I'm not saying league screwed me and did this. I never said that and I'm not looking for money. I'm not looking for a fight. How can we make this better?"

Taylor said he underwent a full orthopedic exam in Chicago last week because his NFL insurance, which covers players for five years after they retire, was set to expire Thursday. He said 11 MRIs and 12 X-rays revealed that he had partially torn labrums in each shoulder and at one point suffered a fractured clavicle.

Taylor said he was never informed of those injuries while he was playing.

"I know I didn't wake up and they appeared," Taylor said. "They were overlooked, missed, too small to mention. I don't know. I don't know what went into the cause of it.

"... It's not bashing the doctors. It's not bashing the league. It's how can we make this less of an issue and make it better and improve things for the players?"

A Jaguars spokesman said the team would not have any comment about Taylor, whom the team selected with the ninth overall pick in 1998 and is still employed by the Jaguars as a pregame analyst.

Taylor said some of his tweets were misunderstood -- especially the one about neutral doctors -- and conceded that it was hard to get his full message across in 140 characters. A player can seek a second opinion from any doctor he chooses during his career, but when he is seeking "line of duty benefits" -- for injuries sustained while playing -- he must choose from a list of approved doctors compiled by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Taylor said those doctors need to be held accountable because if there is an oversight, a player will not qualify for those benefits. He also said he'd like to see the NFLPA investigate adopting a similar program to the one used by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), which funds health insurance for all retired NBA players with at least three years of service in the league.

He also said he did receive his line of duty benefits after his third request.

Taylor said once his insurance from the league expired, he had the option of going on a COBRA plan. The NFL does have a health reimbursement account, but it doesn't last forever and then a player would be facing extremely high premiums.

Taylor said his wife has good insurance, but it left him wondering what other former players who aren't as fortunate are supposed to do. He said that's why he went on his Twitter rant Wednesday.

"Basically, this isn't about me," Taylor said. "There are guys out there that are going to be way worse off than me."

Taylor battled significant injuries during the early part of his career, missing 23 of a possible 48 games from 1999 to 2001. The worst injury came early in the 2001 season, when he tore his groin away from the bone. Despite that injury, coach Tom Coughlin listed Taylor as questionable on the injury report for the remainder of the season. As a result, Taylor was nicknamed"Fragile Fred."

Taylor also dealt with injuries to the MCL and PCL in his left knee and still has screws in his right ankle, yet he still finished his career 16th on the NFL's all-time rushing list (11,695 yards) and is the Jaguars' all-time leading rusher (11,271).

He says he still has what he called "sensations" in his shoulders and lost some range of motion but is doing well in retirement, keeping in shape and taking care of his body. He also said that despite the pain he endured, he'd get back on the field in a minute.

"I would play football 100 times again," said Taylor, who retired in 2010 after playing two seasons with the New England Patriots. "I wish they had a freakin' pawn shop so we could go buy different body parts. I'd buy them and go strap them on and play again.

"You never know when you're going to die. People say that you're shortening your lifespan. Try telling that to a 2-week-old infant, or 10-month-old, who dies in a car wreck. Or a 75-year-old man. You don't know. Live your life to the fullest. God is going to bless and protect you, and when it's your time, it's your time."

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