Taylor vs. Rice, Part II

CLEVELAND – There are some mysteries that may never be solved, like who was behind the JFK assassination and did Ray Rice really spit in the face of Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor.

Taylor and Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, were involved in an incident early in the first game between the AFC North rivals this season. After the exchange of a few unpleasantries, Taylor became visibly incensed and was assessed a personal-foul penalty when he slapped the side of Rice’s facemask.

Taylor insinuated after the game that Rice spit in his face. Video shows Rice tilting his heads backwards as if preparing to spit, but it’s not clear if he actually did.

Rice denied spitting this week.

“It was two guys jawing at each other,” Rice told reporters in Baltimore. “I had my mouthpiece in, so when I went to say something back to him it looked as if I projected toward him. I was saying something; he was saying something. Obviously, that’s what happened. We’ll leave it at that.”

Taylor was again vague when asked about the incident prior to Thursday’s practice.

“It is what it is,” Taylor said. “We’re both moving on from it and getting ready for this game.”

Like Taylor, Rice would like to put the incident behind him. Both players have more serious matters at hand as the Browns will try to improve on a 3-5 record and the Ravens need to take a step forward from a 3-4 record.

“Phil Taylor is a great young player,” Rice said. “He’s coming along very well and he’s making plays in their running game. He’s a dominant force. I have tremendous respect for him.”

Taylor apologized to his teammates for the penalty. He vows to play with a cooler head Sunday at First Energy stadium.

Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton has no concerns that Taylor might go off again.

“That’s two men playing football,” Horton said. “It’s a tough game and I’m sure they’re emotional guys. It’s a tough game and it’s hard to play without some silliness. I think both players respect each other as football players.”

Taylor is a big part of a defense that Horton promised last week would take noticeable strides before Thanksgiving weekend. After missing the first half of last season with a torn pectoral, Taylor returned to play the second half of the season.

Through the first half of this season Taylor has 34 tackles and two sacks. He thinks this is the best football he’s played in his three-year career.

“I’m just trying to do what I do,” Taylor said.

The defense had a fast start to the season but struggled not surprisingly against strong offenses fielded by the Lions and Packers. After a shaky first half that Horton called “embarrassing” against the Chiefs, the unit played much better in the second half.

“We knew what we’re capable of doing,” Taylor said. “We just have to go out there and do it. The second half showed what we can be getting off the field on third downs and getting to the quarterback.”

This week it will be a matter of not letting emotions get out of control for Taylor and Rice.

“I have to keep my head level in those situations,” Rice said. “I don’t ever want to feel myself in a situation where it seems like me and this guy have problems. I don’t have a problem with him.”

As far as anyone knows, Taylor feels the same say.