Former Raider testifies punch broke eye socket

Updated: March 10, 2005, 12:09 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Marcus Williams relived for jurors Wednesday the face-smashing punch teammate Bill Romanowski leveled on him during a practice drill that ended the former Oakland Raiders tight end's career after two seasons.

The 27-year-old Williams then told jurors why he was suing Romanowski in state court for millions of dollars in damages. The Aug. 24, 2003 attack, he testified, broke his left eye socket, shortened his memory and gave him double vision and depression.

"I felt that that wasn't right. That wasn't a fight, that was an assault," he said as jurors and Romanowski listened to his testimony in a cramped courtroom.

Williams said after he blocked Romanowski during a running drill, Romanowski grabbed his helmet and then ripped it off before the crushing blow was delivered.

As his helmet was coming off, he said, "I'm thinking in my head what the hell is he doing. The next thing I know I'm hit."

Hours before Williams took the stand, Romanowski finished his second day of testimony. After admitting that he punched Williams, Romanowski testified he's not sure how he would react again under the same circumstances.

"Would you do it again?" Williams' attorney, James Brosnahan, asked.

"If I was pushed in the back when I was playing football, I don't know what I would do, sir," Romanowski replied.

Romanowski, 38, nearly came to tears on the witness stand Tuesday. He told jurors he didn't remember much about what happened during the practice session nearly two years ago, but said a fight broke out after Williams pushed him during practice.

Williams related to jurors how making it to the NFL had fulfilled a lifelong quest that ended with Romanowski's punch.

"I felt like I was living a dream every day," Williams said.

He testified his life has now turned into nightmare, with no real hopes of playing football while at the same time seeing Romanowski in his dreams. "It's just him grabbing my helmet," Williams testified.

Williams, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, played in 13 games as a rookie during Oakland's Super Bowl season. He was used primarily on special teams but was trying to earn a regular position before the injury.

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

Romanowski said it was a legitimate fight resulting from Williams pushing him in the back.

After a 16-year NFL career, Romanowski -- released last March by the Raiders 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.

Meanwhile, Williams' attorney introduced into evidence a letter to Romanowski from the NFL dated Sept. 20, 2004.

Only parts of that letter were read in open court, but Romanowski acknowledged that the letter was notification from the NFL that he was being suspended for four regular season games because of something that occurred in August 2003, which based on NFL guidelines indicates a violation of the league's substance policy.

The letter also indicated that Romanowski initially filed an appeal but later withdrew it -- choosing, instead, to retire. Romanowski's decision to retire is why the suspension was never served.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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