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Former Hampton High star Tyrod Taylor adapts to his Ravens' backup role
Former Hampton High star Tyrod Taylor adapts to his Ravens' backup role

Tyrod Taylor's cubicle in the Baltimore Ravens' locker room is tucked away in a corner near the bathroom, directly opposite of those occupied by veterans such as Ray Lewis and Matt Birk.

But the Hampton High graduate was front and center in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati when he played the last three quarters at quarterback as the Ravens rested starting signal-caller Joe Flacco and other regulars in preparation for the playoffs.

"I was fortunate to be in that situation," said former Virginia Tech standout Taylor, 23. "We had a game where we could rest some guys and I was able to get some meaningful snaps and show coaches and people what I was capable of. I was grateful for it and wanted to take advantage of it."

Taylor completed 15 of 25 passes for 149 yards and also ran for 65 yards in the 23-17 loss at Cincinnati.

Since then, the 6-foot-1 Taylor has returned to the bench as Flacco, the fifth-year starter out of the University of Delaware, has led the Ravens to three straight postseason wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans to face the 49ers on Sunday.

Taylor, in his second NFL season, is glad to be along for the ride. But he also knows he is one play away from being in the game.

"This is great. A lot of guys in this league don't get a chance to play in this game," said Taylor, who was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round in 2011. "We have a special unit and want to finish the year on a good note."

Flacco is the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. Despite those credentials he has not been considered an elite quarterback by most pundits — and even many Baltimore fans who flood sports radio call-in shows — but that may be changing. Or maybe it already has after he beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back playoff wins.

"Joe has played well, he has played very well," said Taylor, who was a Parade All-American at Hampton. "He has won a lot of tough games during his time here. He has played well in the playoffs this year."

Taylor completed 17 of 29 passes for 179 yards with no touchdowns and one interception during regular-season play with a rating of 62.3.

He said he has to be prepared no matter the situation, even with the Super Bowl looming. There is always a chance of an injury to Flacco, or any player for that matter.

"Definitely, I have got to prepare like I am going to be the starter," Taylor said. "You never know what can happen in a game. It could be the first play (for an injury) or it could never happen. That is your mindset (as a backup)."

After the Ravens won at New England on Jan. 20 in the AFC title game, preparation turned to facing the San Francisco 49ers. And that meant that Taylor took on the role of Colin Kaepernick in practice so the Baltimore defense could gauge how they would handle a dual-threat that is the 49ers quarterback.

"He's fully capable of putting 200 yards (rushing) on you in a second," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh told reporters last week about Kaepernick. "He's just as capable as Frank Gore is, or any of their running backs. He's not just an integral part of their passing game. He's a huge part of their run game."

Taylor said that he met Kaepernick in workouts after their college careers.

"I have watched him through the years. We trained together coming out of college," Taylor said. "I know what he is capable of and what his strengths are. They have done a good job of putting him in good situations" after Kaepernick took the starter job from Alex Smith during the season.

Taylor said he has taken care of getting tickets for family and friends who are coming to New Orleans.

"It is a little expensive. Even if they can't come to the game it will be nice to have them around," he said.

Taylor said the Ravens welcome the underdog role for the third game after winning at Denver and at New England in the playoffs.

"The underdog is always good. You get a chance to go out there and prove people wrong," he said. "We have to approach the game like we do any other game. Of course it is the Super Bowl and the biggest game of the year. At the same time we have to take care of ourselves and put in extra time and prepare. It is a business trip. We are down there to win a football game."

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