Samuels plans to retire

By Jason Reid
Saturday, October 24, 2009

After learning he could become paralyzed if he continued to play football, Washington Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels has told people in the organization he will sit out the remainder of the season and plans to retire.

Samuels, who suffered a serious neck injury about two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, reached his decisions after consulting with many specialists, several of whom warned him about the possibility of no longer being able to walk if he attempted to prolong his career, league sources said.

However, a source close to Samuels, 32, said he would not make a final determination on retirement until December or January -- and would withhold a public announcement until that time.

"I will continue to seek medical advice. I hope to see where I am physically over the next couple months," Samuels said in a statement released by the Redskins Friday. "At this time, I have not made a decision, but I love playing for the Redskins and hope to be back."

The 10-year veteran, who traveled to California earlier in the week to seek another medical opinion about his situation, appeared at Redskins Park on Friday to take a team picture. Samuels did not speak with reporters, and Coach Jim Zorn said he had no update on Samuels's status.

"I haven't talked to him," Zorn said. "I don't know any more quite yet."

The Redskins have been aware for some time that Samuels would not play again this season and would strongly consider retirement because of the long-term health risks he faced. Prompted in part by the realization that their ineffective line would be without its anchor for the final 10 games, the Redskins signed free agent tackle Levi Jones on Tuesday.

Although Samuels's 2008 season was cut short because of a triceps injury and he underwent triceps and knee surgeries in the offseason, teammates said the news that Samuels would not take the field again this season and the understanding that he probably has played his last game came as a blow.

The Redskins have struggled during a disappointing 2-4 start, have also lost starting right guard Randy Thomas for the season and have dealt with the uncertainty of Zorn's job status.

"It is kind of a blow to the team," center Casey Rabach said in a phone interview. "A lot of the talk in the offseason was about the health of the offensive line, and to see Randy go down and now Chris, it's frustrating and it's tough.

"Hopefully, we'll get Randy back next season, but with Chris, he obviously meant a lot to the team. Selfishly, it's frustrating for me to see him go, but he's making the right decision. He's young, he's got a lot of life left, and this is nothing to mess around with."

Quarterback Jason Campbell considers Samuels among his closest friends on the team. Campbell encouraged Samuels to get as many opinions as possible before making a decision, and Campbell would rather not see Samuels risk permanent damage.

"In a situation like that, when you're talking about a teammate and a friend, you just want to make sure they get the right information," said Campbell, co-captain of the offense with Samuels. "I saw how hard this was on Chris, and I know he wanted to be out there with us, but this was about what he'd be able to do for the rest of his life.

"He's still young and there's a lot he hasn't done with his life yet that he wants to do. It's been hard to see him go through this because Chris is such a great player, and he's an even better person. . . . But after what happened in the Carolina game, I think everybody kind of knew there was a chance this could happen."

Samuels -- who had remained in the lineup despite knee problems he experienced since training camp -- was injured Oct. 11 during the Redskins' first possession in a 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. In high school, Samuels was diagnosed with stenosis, a narrowing of the spine, he said in a recent interview.

"We talked quite a bit over the last week or two, and I know he wanted to" keep playing, Rabach said. "But he had to look at the bigger picture. He's young. He's got a lot of life ahead of him."

Redskins notes: Wide receiver Devin Thomas has moved ahead of Malcolm Kelly on the depth chart and is the new starting flanker, Zorn said.

"Right now that is a permanent move," Zorn said. "I wasn't getting enough out of Malcolm as I felt like we needed to. He knows where he's headed as far as his needs to improve. He's got a great attitude, [but] Devin kept getting better and better." . . .

Punter Hunter Smith (groin) performed well during practice and should be ready to play Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Zorn said.

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