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Eric Turner dies at 31
Cancer claims the life of Oakland Raiders defensive back
Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2000 03:45 PM
Eric Turner made the Pro Bowl in 1994 after tying for the NFL lead with nine interceptions. Otto Greule Jr./Allsport
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) -- Two weeks after claiming he was not gravely ill, Eric Turner of the Oakland Raiders has died, apparently of cancer. He was 31.
Turner, who was the second overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, died Sunday afternoon at Los Robles Hospital, according to a nursing supervisor.
Turner was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1994 after tying for the league lead with nine interceptions, including one he returned 93 yards for a touchdown.
The cause of death appeared to be complications of abdominal cancer, according to Craig Stevens, medical examiner at the Ventura County Coroner's office.
|Remembering a 'warrior'|
|LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Two weeks ago, Oakland Raiders defensive back Eric Turner vehemently denied he was seriously ill. Now, Turner is dead, and colleagues are stunned. |
"I talked to him when we played Oakland in the preseason," said Terry Donahue, director of personnel for the San Francisco 49ers. "I sent him a letter a couple of weeks ago, but I don't know if he ever got it."
Donahue, head coach at UCLA when Turner earned All-America honors in 1990, called him "as good a Bruin football player as there ever was."
"Eric was certainly one of the top players we had during my 21 years at UCLA," said Bruins defensive coordinator Bob Field. "This is a tragic loss for anyone who knew him."
Turner was a "respected warrior on the field and a great teammate," the Raiders organization said in a statement.
"The Raiders will miss Eric's special qualities," the statement said. "Unfortunately, millions of people will not be exposed to the greatness of Eric Turner's winning personality and talents in the decades to come."
Raiders coach Jon Gruden told reporters that Turner was "a great guy who will be sorely missed by a lot of people.
"We're going to miss this guy terribly," he said.
"He was compassionate and a class act," said Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman. "It was truly a pleasure to have known Eric and I will miss him."
Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert said: "He always brought his competitive nature to the team, especially on defense."
Originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the second overall pick in the 1991 draft, Turner signed with the Raiders in 1997 after making his second Pro Bowl in 1996 with the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens owner Art Modell said he didn't know how ill Turner was.
"In retrospect, he was exceedingly private, in cloaking this illness in the most private of terms, insisting publicly that there was nothing wrong with him. It's very sad that a young man that age has to be taken that way.
"There's a very eerie connection. We drafted Eric in the first round [in 1991] and he replaced Donnie Rogers, who also died in a tragic situation," Modell said.
After two seasons with Cleveland, 1984 and 1985, Rogers died of a cocaine reaction on the eve of his wedding.
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On May 15, the former UCLA player issued a statement through his agents stating the reports of his illness were unfounded.
"I realize people are concerned, but I have chosen to keep this issue within my family," Turner said in the statement. "Contrary to published reports I have not lost 70 pounds and am not gravely ill. ...I will make another statement when my family and I deem it appropriate."
The Raiders had refused to comment on the free safety, who did not attend the team's minicamp in late April for personal reasons.
The Los Angeles Daily News first reported the story, saying in early May the former Pro Bowl player has a serious stomach illness.
The newspaper quoted an unidentified Raiders official as saying, "It's a terrible, terrible situation ... people should really be concerned for this kid."
"It started out as an ulcer and it's developed into something worse," the Raiders official told the Daily News.
Several other San Francisco Bay-area newspapers also reported that Turner was ill. The San Jose Mercury News had reported Turner was gravely ill with intestinal cancer. One source quoted by the newspaper said Turner was resting at his home near Los Angeles and had lost 70 pounds from his playing weight of 215.
Turner signed with the Raiders as a free agent before the 1997 season after making his second Pro Bowl in '96 with the Baltimore Ravens. He led the Raiders in tackles his first year with 111, but was limited to just six games in 1998 because of a foot injury and missed the final six games of last season with a calf injury.
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