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Taylor in critical condition

The Baltimore Sun

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor lay in critical condition in a Miami hospital after being shot inside his home, as doctors told the team to hope "for a miracle."

A Redskins official said last night that Taylor, 24, was able to squeeze a doctor's hand on command.

"He was responsive to the doctor's request to squeeze his hand and show facial expressions, so the doctors were very happy about that," Vinny Cerrato, vice president of football operations, told reporters in a conference call from Miami. "That was some positive news that the doctors brought to us."

Taylor, who was shot early yesterday, was in such bad shape that he flatlined twice, once before he got to the hospital and again upon arriving, both from loss of blood, according to a team official who asked not to be identified, as details were still unfolding.

Cerrato said he had heard reports that Taylor had earlier been nonresponsive but said he didn't know if the player had been comatose. Cerrato said doctors had told Redskins staff earlier "to hope for a miracle."

Taylor's condition - a family friend said he lost a significant amount of blood - was severe enough that his dazed teammates and coaches focused during the afternoon not on whether he would play again, but whether he would survive.

"If he plays again, great. If he doesn't, great. I just want him to recover," said assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams, pausing to collect himself earlier at Redskins Park, the team's training facility. "I just want him to be all right."

Said wide receiver Keenan McCardell: "I probably speak for everybody when I say we are numb. We don't know what to do right now."

About 50 fans gathered for a vigil last night outside Redskins Park in rural Loudoun County. Some held posters of Taylor, and others wore his No. 21 jersey. Scores of fans posted messages - "Please hang in there, Sean Taylor," one said - on Redskins Internet fan sites.

Taylor one of the NFL's most fearsome hitters, suffered damage to his femoral artery, and doctors feared the wound might have affected blood flow to his brain, according to Richard Sharpstein, a family friend and his former lawyer. Taylor was in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was airlifted and underwent surgery after a 911 call about 1:45 a.m. yesterday.

"According to a preliminary investigation, it appears that the victim was shot inside the home by an intruder. There are signs of forced entry at the residence," a police statement said.

It could not be determined whether the shooting was linked to any of Taylor's earlier problems or to an apparent burglary attempt about a week ago at his home, which Taylor bought a few years ago in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay.

Taylor, who played at the University of Miami before the Redskins drafted him in 2004, told Redskins coach Joe Gibbs about the burglary attempt Nov. 19. Taylor, who missed the past two games with a knee injury, asked for permission to leave the team temporarily to deal with the situation at the home, according to Gibbs.

"Sean called me in the office [last] Monday morning and said, 'Somebody broke into my house,'" Gibbs said yesterday. "I said, 'Take care of your house.'"

Gibbs said Taylor, who has five interceptions this season, rejoined the team last Tuesday and that he doesn't know why Taylor later returned to the home where the shooting occurred.

Sharpstein said Taylor's girlfriend told him the couple was awakened by loud noises. Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection, and someone then broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor, the lawyer said.

Taylor's teammates got the news from television or the Internet or from teammates as they drifted into Redskins Park yesterday morning after Sunday's 19-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was Washington's third straight loss, hurting the 5-6 team's playoff chances.

Gibbs later held a team meeting, telling the players what he knew. The team chaplain addressed the players, who said a prayer.

After getting word, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder flew to Miami in the afternoon with running back Clinton Portis, Cerrato and trainer Bubba Tyer. They were joined there by Drew Rosenhaus, Taylor's agent.

"How can you deal with this? There is nothing we can do," said Portis, who has often defended Taylor - and been his unofficial spokesman - during long periods when the safety would refuse to speak with the media. "We can't jump in front of the bullet for him or turn back time."

Taylor was criticized by the media for missing a mandatory rookie symposium in 2004 and, later, for not being accessible to Redskins coaches. He was fined for spitting in the face of Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman during a playoff game in January 2006. Taylor reached a deal with prosecutors calling for probation after he was accused two years ago of brandishing a gun at a man during a fight that broke out after Taylor and some friends went looking for the people who had allegedly stolen his all-terrain vehicles.

Portis and other players and coaches talked about how Taylor had matured since the birth last year of his daughter, who, according to police, was in the home where Taylor was shot. "To have that baby and carrying that baby, I could see in him a maturing process that you go through when you have your first child," Gibbs said.

Taylor is a member of a players' council that periodically meets with Gibbs about player issues. "He has taken that role very seriously," Williams said.

Linebacker London Fletcher said the shooting made him reflect on athletes' vulnerability. "People know who you are or assume you have all this money. People are looking for ways to try to attack you in some way, shape or form."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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