Williams' career ended with punch

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Former Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski
ended Marcus Williams' NFL career two years ago when he ripped off
his teammate's helmet and punched the second-year tight end in the
face during a practice drill.
Romanowski's long history of bad behavior on the field has
landed him in a courtroom, where Williams is suing the linebacker.
Williams is seeking damages of $3.8 million for alleged battery,
negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The
blow he took Aug. 24, 2003, broke a bone around his left eye and
also injured his brain. His football career ended at age 27.
Romanowski, known for fanatical behavior during his 16 NFL
seasons, apologized publicly several days after the altercation.
"I hold myself accountable," Romanowski said afterward. "It
was a classless move by me."
Williams wasn't satisfied and filed the civil lawsuit. The case,
which begins Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court and could
last several weeks, will focus on the consequences of Romanowksi's
actions on Williams' career.
Potential witnesses include Romanowski's former teammates, Jerry
Rice and Ronnie Lott, former Raiders coach Bill Callahan, and
Williams' agent, Lee Kolligian.
Cases in which professional sports teammates sue each other are
"I did not find a situation where one teammate has injured
another teammate during a practice in this way," said Williams'
attorney, James Brosnahan, after the original complaint was filed.
"And for good reason. Teammates have to treat each other with
The Raiders have long been known as the bad boys of the NFL, and
they seemed to start spinning out of control following the fight
between Romanowski and Williams. The team was coming off an
embarrassing 48-21 Super Bowl loss and headed into a lousy 4-12
season, the worst collapse in NFL history for a team that had just
played for the title.
Running back Tyrone Wheatley said few players saw the
altercation because it happened when the linebackers and tight ends
were together for a drill.
"I think because of the type of season 2003 was, and that was
part of it, it makes it just that much more of a spectacle,"
Wheatley told The AP in a telephone interview Monday. "If we were
doing well and everything went fine and dandy, we wouldn't hear too
much about this. It would fly under the radar. Because 2003 was
such a weird year, with statements made and everything, we're
hearing about it."
Romanowski, released by the Raiders last March after failing a
physical, has a long history of scrapes with opponents and others.
One of his more well-publicized incidents came in December 1997,
when he spit in the face of San Francisco 49ers receiver J.J.
Stokes while playing for the Denver Broncos in a nationally
televised game.
Romanowski was fined $7,500 by the NFL -- one of several fines
for his behavior during his career.
Romanowski was called a racist for that episode. He also has
been called a headhunter for his vicious helmet-to-helmet hit in
1997 on Kerry Collins, who now quarterbacks the Raiders. Romanowski
was fined $42,500 in 1999 alone. He's been accused of illegally
obtaining prescription diet drugs and using steroids.
For years, Romanowski, 38, has been an advocate of
performance-enhancing substances, even carrying a briefcase of
supplements into the locker room.
Williams played in 13 games as an undrafted free agent as a
rookie during the team's Super Bowl season. He was used primarily
on special teams but was trying to earn a regular position before
the injury.