Kansas University senior Eric Washington continues the slow recovery process from a serious head and neck injury, and it's bad enough that his football playing days are over.
KU coach Mark Mangino confirmed Tuesday that Washington wouldn't return to the field, adding that the linebacker had neck surgery last week and continues his fight to get healthy again.
Washington was injured in the Nebraska game Sept. 30 when making a tackle. He lost feeling in his extremities briefly and spent two nights in a Lincoln, Neb., hospital before returning to Lawrence.
At first, the door was open for Washington to possibly return this season. That's not the case anymore, though.
"I feel badly for him," Mangino said. "I really feel like he was playing really well and really getting comfortable and really was a key guy for us. Each and every week he just got better and better, and it seemed like : things just clicked for him in the Nebraska game."
Washington had 34 tackles - still fifth-best on the team despite missing the last three games - and three pass breakups, emerging as one of the top performers on a young linebacker unit. He especially was playing well against the Huskers, but the third-quarter injury finished his career.
Mangino said Washington still was expected to make a full recovery from his injury.
"Fortunately, he's going to be healthy and he's going to get his degree. We're going to stay on him," Mangino said. "He's on track to get his degree in the near future, and that's all we care about right now."
2006 October 24 Football Press Conference
Washington transferred to Kansas in 2005 after spending two seasons at Minnesota West Community College. He originally started his career at Minnesota, red-shirting for coach Glen Mason and the Gophers in 2002.
As a junior at KU, Washington had 11 tackles in 11 games. He didn't play in the Fort Worth Bowl because of a shoulder injury.
In Washington's absence, James Holt and Arist Wright have split time at outside linebacker. Wright started against Baylor last week, recording five tackles and returning an interceptions 28 yards for a touchdown against the Bears. He was named KU's defensive player of the game by the Jayhawk coaches.
Wright, just a red-shirt freshman, saw Washington as a mentor on the football field.
"I talked to him yesterday. He's doing good," Wright said. "He's pretty proud of me. He calls me his son. He was like, 'You're going to be my son. I heard you can hit.' He was a big hitter."