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Romanowski nearly cries on witness stand

David Kravets / Associated Press


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Retired Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski nearly came to tears on the witness stand Tuesday as he explained the difficulty of being a family man and somebody who plays a "violent, violent game."

He said he will soon publish "Romo: My Jekyll and Hyde Life," which speaks of him being a "mild-mannered guy off the field and you play this violent sport with a lot of hitting out on the football field."

Romanowski, who played 16 years in the NFL, is the defendant in a civil trial on an accusation he punched tight end Marcus Williams during practice, ending the 27-year-old's short-lived NFL career and causing brain damage when his eye socket was crushed.

Williams is seeking millions of dollars in damages from Romanowski, saying the Aug. 24, 2003, blow was out-of-bounds behavior even in the gladiator-like sport of football.

Romanowski, 38, told jurors he did punch Williams in the face, but did not remember much more about the fight.

"There was a fight that broke out," he said. "My reaction was a reaction from being pushed in the back."

Williams, who was in his second season with the team, is seeking damages for alleged battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Raiders have claimed they are not responsible for any damages in the incident and fined Romanowski $60,000. Romanowski was not charged with a crime.

The attack occurred after Williams blocked Romanowski during practice. After the play, Romanowski came up to Williams from behind, tore off his teammate's helmet and socked him, according to Williams.

Ryan Prince testified last week that he and Williams were backup players trying to make the team when the incident happened. He said Romanowski punched Williams twice, first knocking off Williams' helmet before delivering the second blow.

After he regained his composure in the courtroom, Romanowski said Williams' helmet came off "as I connected with a punch."

Romanowski, a married father of two, is known for fanatical behavior during his career and has been fined more than $100,000 for headbutting, headkicking and spearing.

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 4-12 season, the worst collapse in NFL history for a team that had just played for the title.

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.

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.

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