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Taylor unconscious, in critical condition following surgery

PALMETTO BAY, Fla. -- Washington Redskins star safety Sean Taylor was critically injured Monday in a shooting at his home that family members feared could cause permanent brain damage.

Miami-Dade Police were still investigating who was responsible for the attack, which came just eight days after an intruder was reported at Taylor's home.

The 24-year-old player was in the intensive care unit following surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said family friend Richard Sharpstein, his former lawyer. The bullet hit Taylor in his upper leg and damaged his femoral artery, causing significant blood loss and prompting concerns about blood flow to the brain.

Taylor remained unconscious Monday evening. The Redskins released a statement from vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato late Monday, stating Taylor remains in critical condition in the ICU and had undergone about seven hours of surgery.

At one point earlier on Monday, Taylor was clinging to life, according to NFL Network's Adam Schefter.

"The doctors are being very guarded about their prognosis," said Sharpstein, who was at the hospital with the player's family and friends. "They're being a little bit skeptical about either whether he might make it or whether it might cause some permanent brain injury."

Still, Cerrato said he was encouraged by some news from the hospital.

"He was responsive to the doctor's request to squeeze his hand and show facial expression, and so the doctors were very happy about that," he said. "They told us to hope for a miracle, and I think the positive news we got was extremely good news."

Taylor has had several problems on and off the field, including an incident two years ago in which he was accused of brandishing a gun.

Police were questioning Taylor's girlfriend and others who were in the house at the time of the shooting. They said the home's occupants had not yet been removed from the list of potential suspects, though Sharpstein said it was clear an invader was responsible.

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

"It was clearly a burglary, an armed burglary," Sharpstein said, adding nothing appeared to have been stolen.

Police were being more guarded in their assessment. "It could have been a possible burglary; it could have been a possible robbery," Miami-Dade Police Lt. Nancy Perez said. "It has not been confirmed as yet."

No arrests have been made.

Officers were dispatched to Taylor's home about 1:45 a.m. Monday after his girlfriend called 911 and said he was shot in his lower body. He was airlifted to the hospital.

The shooting followed a Nov. 17 report of a burglary at the pale yellow house Taylor bought two years ago in this Miami suburb. In that incident, according to police records, someone pried open a front window, rifled through his drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.

"They're really sifting through that incident and today's incident ... to see if there's any correlation," said Miami-Dade Police Detective Mario Rachid.

Taylor sprained a ligament in his right knee in the second half of the Nov. 11 loss to Philadelphia and missed the last two games -- including the 19-13 loss by the Redskins (5-6) on Sunday at Tampa. He didn't travel with the team to the game because of his injury.

Taylor called coach Joe Gibbs on Nov. 19 to let him know he'd miss that morning's regular team meeting because he was in Florida dealing with the first break-in on Nov. 17.

"I said, 'I understand that.' I said, 'Take care of your house and everything you have to there,"' Gibbs recalled.

Taylor was at team headquarters Saturday to treat his knee, Gibbs said, adding he wasn't aware the player then returned to Florida.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder arrived in Miami on his private plane with running back Clinton Portis, Cerrato and trainer Bubba Tyer.

A group of Taylor's fans planned a two-hour vigil Monday evening outside Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va.

"This is not just a member of the Washington Redskins," fellow safety Pierson Prioleau said. "But we're talking about a dad, a brother, a friend of ours, and that's where we're at with this right now."

Gibbs was joined by the team chaplain at the Redskins' usual Monday meeting. A small group of players held a separate prayer gathering.

Known as one of the NFL's hardest hitters, Taylor played in his first Pro Bowl last season, where he drew attention by leveling the other team's punter in what is usually a well-mannered exhibition game. Even though he has missed two games, his five interceptions remained tied for most in the NFC.

Taylor has been in trouble numerous times since he was drafted as the No. 5 overall pick in 2004. He has been fined at least seven times during his professional career for late hits and other infractions, including a $17,000 penalty for spitting in the face of Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman during a playoff game in January 2006. He also was fined $25,000 for skipping a mandatory rookie symposium shortly after he was drafted.

Redskins coaches and players have defended Taylor, saying he was smart and misunderstood. Taylor has been slow to let anyone into his inner circle. He has rarely spoken to reporters, saying he does not trust them. Teammates said he became more mature over the last year after he became a father for the first time.

In 2005, Taylor was accused of brandishing a gun at a man and repeatedly hitting him during a fight that broke out after Taylor and some friends went looking for the people who had allegedly stolen his all-terrain vehicles.

Taylor reached a deal with prosecutors last year after they agreed to drop felony charges against him. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in the assault case and was sentenced to 18 months probation. The pleas prompted another fine from the NFL but kept his football career intact.

He also was ordered to talk about the importance of education at 10 Miami schools and had to contribute $1,000 for scholarships to each of those schools.

The man Taylor allegedly hit, Ryan Hill, sued, seeking at least $15,000 in damages. Hill sustained bruises to his body, incurred medical expenses and lost wages because of the fight, the lawsuit said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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