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NFL investigating Saints hazing
Second-round pick Cleeland still has blurred vision
Posted: Tuesday August 25, 1998 07:06 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka refused to talk to reporters on Tuesday. A team spokesman said the coaches and players were unavailable because of a post-practice meeting with NFL security about a hazing incident that left tight end Cam Cleeland with blurred vision in one eye.
The meeting lasted approximately 5 minutes and players, including Cleeland refused to talk afterward.
"NFL security today advised the Saints that it has initiated a review of the rookie hazing incident that took place in La Crosse, Wisconsin," Saints general manager Bill Kuharich said in a written statement. "The review by NFL Security will now be conducted and the result in a report to the commissioner. The matter is now in NFL securities hands and the Saints will no longer answer questions regarding this matter at this time."
Cleeland, the second-round draft pick, said a CAT scan revealed no broken bones around his left eye. His vision remained blurred, however, and he said he was still having headaches.
Cleeland was one of a number of rookies who had pillow cases put over their heads and were forced to run a gantlet of veteran players. He was the only one to sustain serious injuries, however.
"I guess when you get hit in the head with a bag of coins you're bound to have blurred vision," said Cameron Foster, Cleeland's agent.
He said the bag of coins was also used to hammer Cleeland's ankle, which had sidelined him most of camp because of a sprain.
Foster said that he advised Cleeland not to practice or play until he got a second opinion on the extent of his injuries from the incident.
Cleeland's nose may have been broken and he was found to have a fluid sac detached from his retina.
Four of the five players who were hazed were white, including Cleeland. The four who did not run the gantlet were all black.
Cleeland's father said he thought the hazing of his son was racially motivated. Some players disagreed.
"There is a certain rite of passage into the NFL," a player who asked not to be identified told the Times-Picayune. "It just went overboard. Guys got a little carried away. But I don't feel it was racially motivated as some are suggesting."
The Saints had not been able to identify the players who formed the gantlet and had not been able to fine or punish them, Ditka said.
"What do you want me to do," Ditka said Monday. "Do you want to line them up against the wall and shoot them? There's nothing you can do."
Foster, however said that the Saints should punish the entire team and keep punishing them until the guilty players were identified.
"The Saints brought this on themselves," Foster said. "It's not enough to give a lecture on not hazing and then do nothing to prevent it. Now you're talking about a potentially career-ending injury."
Foster has written to the league and the NFL Players Association concerning the incident. He wasn't sure if he would take any further action.
"I'm waiting to see if the New Orleans Saints will clean up their own house," he said. "If they don't do it, I'll do something."
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