Archive for Friday, August 29, 2003

Romanowski a disgrace to NFL

August 29, 2003

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The official team punishment called for an undisclosed fine and a one-day suspension.

Talk about a thug getting off easy.

Make no mistake, that's what Bill Romanowski is. He might try to disguise it, beneath his Raiders mask and helmet, but his record -- or is it his rap sheet? -- speaks for itself.

This guy is everything that is wrong about football. He is the bully who couldn't wait to rub everyone's nose in it when you were a kid. He is the over-hyped, out-of-control athlete who makes everyone wonder if he has OD'd on steroids, or some other illegal substance.

"Romo's crazy, man, we all understand that," teammate Frank Middleton told the San Jose Mercury News.

But how do you understand what he did this week? How does the team, or for that matter the NFL, allow him to get off so easily after he allegedly ripped the helmet off fellow Raider Marcus Williams in practice, then punched him so hard he broke the tight end's left orbital bone, chipped one of his teeth and put his career in jeopardy?

"I hold myself accountable," Romanowski told reporters afterward. "It was a classless move by me."

Sorry, but admitting you're wrong is not enough. Not for this guy. Not for a linebacker widely considered the dirtiest player in football. Not for someone who already has rolled up some $79,500 in fines for other violent moments in his behavior profile.

Romanowski has broken the Giants' Kerry Collins jaw, punched the Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez in the head, kicked former Cardinals fullback Larry Centers in the head and, of course, spit in the face of then 49ers wide receiver J.J. Stokes in an infamous episode on "Monday Night Football."

Better yet, the man his teammates call "Dr. Romo" revels in his role. He loves being portrayed as the sport's leading villain.

Before Super Bowl XXXXII in San Diego, he sat in a media conference one morning and smiled when the subject came up.

"Not only am I one of the most hated players in the league," he said. "Now I'm on one of the most hated teams. People say my style of play is what Raiders play is all about."

Some of the Raiders' more intelligent, morally enlightened supporters -- and they do exist -- have to cringe at that statement.

Football is a tough game. No one is arguing that. Anyone who has been down there at field level and listened to the thundering collisions taking place on every play understands that.

And injuries are part of it. When huge bodies are hurtling themselves around like human projectiles, players are bound to get hurt.

But suffering an injury from a resounding hit by an opponent during a game is one thing. Having your face caved in and your career endangered by an irate teammate who punches you out in practice is another.

Here is an interesting question: What if, instead of a relative unknown such as Williams, it would have been Tim Brown, or Charlie Garner, or Rich Gannon who got clocked like that in practice?

What if Romo not only had laid out a teammate, he had jeopardized the team's entire 2003 season? Then what would the punishment have been? And how long do you think he might have been suspended?

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