Taylor shot in possible robbery

PALMETTO BAY, Fla. – Washington Redskins star safety Sean Taylor was in critical condition yesterday after surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg during what police are investigating as a possible armed robbery at his home.

The 24-year-old player was in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital after several hours of surgery, said family friend Richard Sharpstein, his former lawyer. Taylor lost a “significant” amount of blood because the bullet damaged his femoral artery, Sharpstein said.

Doctors are worried the blood loss might affect blood flow to the brain, said Sharpstein, who was at the hospital with Taylor’s family and friends. Taylor has had several on- and off-the-field problems – two years ago he was accused of brandishing a gun.

Officers were sent to Taylor’s home at about 1:45 a.m. after his girlfriend called 911 and said he was shot in his lower body, Lt. Nancy Perez said. Taylor had missed the last two games because of a knee injury and was at home recuperating. Taylor was airlifted to the hospital.

Investigators were still interviewing the girlfriend and other relatives who were in the home to try to determine what happened, Perez said. No arrests have been made.

“It could have been a possible burglary; it could have been a possible robbery,” Perez said. “It has not been confirmed as yet.”

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.

The shooting happened at a home Taylor bought two years ago in the Miami suburb of Palmetto Bay. The player is in his fourth season with the Redskins after playing at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003. Despite his injury, he is tied for the NFC lead with five interceptions.

In Ashburn, Va., Redskins owner Dan Snyder said he was headed to Miami on his private plane, joined by running back Clinton Portis, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato and trainer Bubba Tyer.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Sean and his family. … We appreciate very, very much the outcry of support,” Snyder said.

Redskins safety Pierson Prioleau fought to keep his composure.

“This is not just a member of the Washington Redskins,” said Prioleau, one of a few players made available to reporters. “But we’re talking about a dad, a brother, a friend of ours, and that’s where we’re at with this right now.”

Coach Joe Gibbs was joined by the team chaplain at the Redskins’ usual yesterday meeting. A small group of players held a separate prayer gathering.

The Redskins (5-6) lost 19-13 at Tampa on Sunday. Taylor did not travel with the team to the game because of his injury. Taylor sprained a ligament in his right knee in the second half of the Nov. 11 loss to Philadelphia. He was expected to miss at least two games.

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.

Associated Press writers Howard Fendrich and Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., and Jessica Gresko in Miami contributed to this report.