Best Will Not Play in Poinsettia Bowl

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Cal football coach Jeff Tedford announced after practice Wednesday that tailback Jahvid Best will not play in the Poinsettia Bowl, doing nothing to erase the possibility that Best has played his last game in a Bears uniform.

Tedford said that Best is "doing excellent" in rehabbing from the head and back pain that have kept him away from the football field since he suffered a frightening concussion during the Bears' loss to Oregon State on Nov. 7. But with Cal returning to practice Wednesday just a week away from its bowl game against Utah, the team didn't feel that Best would have enough time to get himself back into game shape before Dec. 23.

"It's a little disappointing," Best said. "I just have too much rehab to do and not enough time. There's nothing I can do.

"I'm close, but I can't get in football shape to play a game in seven days."

Best might have been cleared to play had the Bears gone to a post-Christmas bowl, Tedford said. That speculation was nullified when Cal closed out its regular season with a 42-10 loss at Washington. Now, the Bears' most explosive offensive threat will watch their final game of the 2009 season from the sideline.

"He wishes he could be out there with us," fellow tailback Shane Vereen said. "But at the same time he understands that he needs to get better and healthy."

A junior, Best -- who has had a stellar, if injury-prone, career at Cal and began this season as a popular Heisman Trophy candidate -- now must decide whether or not to declare for the NFL Draft. Tedford said that Best has submitted a request to the NFL to have his draft potential evaluated, which is a common practice among eligible players.

"Right now I sent that in just to get information," Best said. "After the bowl game, I'll sit down with my family and coaches and make a decision. As of now I'm completely on top of the fence."

Players must declare for the Draft by January 15.

Early in the season, Best looked like a clear first-round draft pick, and he still has impressive credentials. The Vallejo, Calif., product is seventh all-time in program history in rushing yards with 2,668; he also is tied for the most rushing touchdowns in Bears history with 29. As a sophomore in 2008, Best was third in the nation in rushing with an average of 131.67 yards per game.

His time at Cal, though, has been plagued by injuries. Best missed the final three games of his freshman season with a hip injury. He dislocated his left elbow against Colorado State as a sophomore and missed the next week's game against Arizona State. He also sat out all of spring ball before this season after having surgery on his elbow and his foot.

If that fateful play against Oregon State were to become Best's last with the Bears, it would be an apt summation of his college career. The leap was breathtakingly majestic -- some players estimated that he was nine feet above the ground before coming back down -- and resulted in a touchdown; the fall was jarring and left Best unconscious on the ground, eventually to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

"It's tough because, I mean, he did have a great career here, and if he chooses to go he's got nothing to be ashamed of, to hang his head about," Vereen said.

Tedford said that the decision to keep Best out of the Poinsettia Bowl was made "over the last couple of days." The Bears' practice Wednesday was their first since Sunday, as players are in the midst of finals week.

Best will make the trip to San Diego to watch Cal play Utah.

"He'd obviously like to be out there with his team, but he understands at the level he plays, the shape you have to be in and things like that -- if you're not ready to hit, not ready to do all that," Tedford said.

Officially, Best ends his junior season with 867 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 141 carries. He also caught 22 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Although he missed the final three games of the season, Best was selected to the all Pac-10 second team.

Tags: JAHVID BEST, JEFF TEDFORD, POINSETTIA BOWL, CAL FOOTBALL


Contact Matt Kawahara at [email protected]



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