By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns DT Phil Taylor believes he will play this season. However, he's been warned not to rush back.
Taylor, who underwent surgery last month to repair a torn chest muscle he injured lifting weights, said he's optimistic about playing for the Browns in 2012. The 335-pounder doesn't have a timeframe for his return, but after there were initial fears he would miss the entire year, he expects it to happen.
"When I'm back, I'm back," he said. "I'm taking it one day at a time. When I think I'm ready to play, I'll be out there."
Taylor was out on the Browns' practice field Tuesday, but not to work out. He visited with friend and former Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, who was at Cleveland's facility to take part in an NFL-sponsored Play 60 event with 150 kids. Taylor and Griffin spent some time together reminiscing about their playing days with the Bears.
"He has a great future," Taylor said of Griffin. "Hopefully not against us. From seeing him for the first time as a freshman in college and moving on up, and get drafted this year, he's changed a lot. He's going to be a great player."
Taylor hopes his next reunion with Griffin is on the field on Dec. 16, when the Browns host the Redskins. For that to happen, Taylor must remain patient as he heals an injury that twice shelved Browns LB D'Qwell Jackson, who missed 26 consecutive games in 2009-10 after tearing pectoral muscles on both sides of his chest.
"I talked to him," Taylor said of Jackson, who made a strong comeback in 2011. "He gave me lots of words of encouragement. He told me not to come back too early and keep my head up and keep working hard."
Taylor is currently limited to range-of-motion exercises and cardio workouts. He was doing bench presses when he injured his chest.
"I really didn't know what happened because it didn't hurt that much," he said. "I thought I just strained it, but obviously after the MRI it wasn't just a strain."
Losing Taylor, who started all 16 games as a rookie and recorded 59 tackles last season, was a major blow to Cleveland's defense. The Browns drafted two inside linemen — John Hughes and Billy Winn — to try and plug the hole left by Taylor's injury. The two rookies are expected to compete with veterans Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering for Taylor's starting spot.
"We won't skip a beat," Taylor said. "Paxson's right behind me. He's going to do good and they (the rookies) are going to play a lot this year. They're learning. We're all doing drills together. We're watching tape. They're learning quick."
Taylor wants to be a quick healer, but he understands the risks in trying to come back too soon.
"I'm doing good right now," he said. "I'm itching to get back, but I'm not going to rush it. When I know it's time for me to be out there, I'll be out there."
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