Terry Metcalf looked so lonely standing there in the parking lot at Redskin Park yesterday morning, waiting for his wife to take him home.

His football gear was in a green trash bag at his feet. His football career was over. The Redskins cut Terry Metcalf yesterday.

He started pacing, then walking in small circles. He tried to smile and act casual, but soon tears welled in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.

"I had a feeling this was what was going to happen," he said. "I just couldn't perform the way I wanted to and I could see (Coach) Joe (Gibbs) was really concerned about me. He and I have been through a lot together and we're very close. He said he couldn't live with himself if something serious happened to me.

"I feel I'm in good shape and deep inside I think I could still play, but the athlete will always say he can still play no matter what. Joe has seen me for seven years and I guess he's probably a better judge of my talent right now than I am. I knew the decision was hard for him because we became friends, close friends, in those years and it's hard to tell a friend to go home.

"That's the breaks. A career has to end sometime and I guess this is my sometime. At least I still have my health . . . at least most of it.

"I played nine years, that's twice the life expectancy for a running back. I just thought I could steal a couple more years as a receiver. I guess I was wrong."

If not for an elbow that accidentally hit Metcalf's head six months ago in a Wednesday night basketball league game, he might have played two more seasons.

The accident resulted in a concussion so severe that Metcalf couldn't run without wobbling and he had virtually no strength in the right side of his body for five months.

"For two months my right foot was dragging and I was turned completely around. I had to almost become left-handed," he said.

Metcalf, who had a serious concussion while playing with Toronto in the Canadian Football League in 1980, was kept out of all contact practices until the last week of camp. His only preseason action was against Cincinnati last Friday. He ran back one kickoff for 16 yards and failed to impress anyone.

"I felt that that was my only chance to show I could still play, but I didn't do well at all," he said.

"My football career is over, I guess, but I'll be all right. I'm a competitor on and off the field. Maybe I'll coach someday, I don't really know. But with insurance money and investments, I'm set financially and my life is pretty well sorted. My only plans now are to cool out and spend some time with my family."

Metcalf said Gibbs informed him of his fate Sunday night. "It didn't bother me much then because I kind of expected it," he said. "But when I got here today (Monday) and cleaned out my locker, it hit me and it hurts. I'm very emotional and sensitive to begin with, so I don't take these things too well.

"It's almost funny. I was coming back planning to be a starter and that one elbow ended it all.

"I thought a lot about, 'Why me? Why now?' That keeps going through my mind. I played all last year without any injuries and then a freak thing like this happens. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe it was just my time to go, who knows?"