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Expensive Punch

An Alameda County (Calif.) jury ordered Bill Romanowski to pay former Raiders teammate Marcus Williams $340,000 in damages March 22, 2005 for punching the tight end in the face during a 2003 preseason practice drill.

The jury awarded Williams $300,000 in lost salary for the 2003 season and $40,000 in medical expenses. The verdict came after two days of deliberations in Alameda Superior Court in Oakland.

Two months after the trial ended, the two sides reportedly announced May 27 that Romanowski agreed to pay Williams $415,000 to resolve the litigation.

Williams, 27, had been seeking $3.8 million in damages for the Aug. 24, 2003 attack — claiming Romanowski’s punch broke Williams’ left eye socket, shortened his memory, gave him double vision and ended his NFL playing career after less than two seasons.

“We are very pleased with the verdict because it establishes that there are limits to the violence in football,” Williams’ attorney, James Brosnahan, told reporters.

The jury of six men and six women found Romanowski (right) committed battery on Williams, but said the former linebacker did not intentionally inflict emotional distress.

During the three-week trial, former Raiders coach Bill Callahan told jurors in a videotaped testimony that Williams was on the verge of being cut when the incident occurred. An economist testified that Williams' financial losses ranged between $1.6 million and $8.7 million, depending on his longevity as an NFL player.

“If Marcus Williams came to us a year and a half ago and said write us a check for $340,000, we would have done it in a heartbeat,” Romanowski’s attorney, Jeffrey Springer, told reporters.

Williams told reporters that his objective in the civil suit wasn’t about money. Instead, the former Washington State star wanted to send a message to the NFL that Romanowski's actions went beyond an acceptable code of conduct.

"I was hoping that justice would prevail and it did," Williams said. "They said what happened was wrong. It was never a money issue. with me. But I understand many people felt it was. We wanted to prove what is right and what is wrong in football, and we did that."

Brosnahan said: “He is satisfied that we established what we set out to establish ... that what Romanowski did was wrong.”

Williams testified that after he blocked Romanowski during a running drill, Romanowski grabbed his helmet and then ripped it off before delivering the crunching punch.

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,” said Romanowski, who played on four Super Bowl champions. “My reaction was a reaction from being pushed in the back.”

Williams, an undrafted free agent, played 13 games on special teams during Oakland’s 2002 Super Bowl season.

Romanowski was released by the Raiders in March 2004 after failing a physical. He was fined more than $100,000 for pugnacious behavior during his 16-year NFL playing career with the 49ers, Eagles, Broncos and Raiders.

Updated: 3-23-2005

Contributing: The Associated Press & The Mercury News

Romanowski Sued
Tight end Marcus Williams, who sustained a serious eye injury when he was punched by linebacker Bill Romanowski during a Raiders practice Aug. 24, 2003, has sued Romanowski for battery, according to published reports. The civil suit, filed in Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court on Oct. 16, 2003 seeks unspecified damages for alleged battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Romanowski, 37, reportedly started the fight when he ripped off Williams' helmet and punched him in the face, fracturing his left orbital bone and breaking a tooth. The attack came at the end of a running play during a 9-on-7 drill.

No criminal charges were filed.

The Raiders suspended Romanowski for one practice and fined him an undisclosed amount. Making a public apology through the media two days after the incident occurred, Romanowski said: "It was a classless move by myself. I hold myself accountable." The linebacker reportedly has been fined at least five times for violent play during his 16-year NFL career.

The same day Romanowski returned to practice Aug. 26, 2003, Williams was placed on injured reserve, meaning he's ineligible to play this season. Williams, 25, reportedly was released by the Raiders on Oct. 28, 2003. He played primarily on special teams during the 2002 season.

Williams' attorney, James Brosnahan, told reporters Oct. 16 that his client suffers from blurred vision and that doctors have indicated that surgery may be required to correct his vision.

Romanowski, who hasn't played since the Raiders' 31-10 loss at Denver on Sept. 22, reportedly is contemplating retirement after sustaining at least three concussions this season. The 16-year veteran was placed on injured reserve Oct. 23, 2003.

Brosnahan is no stranger to litigation against the Raiders franchise. He represented Alameda County in a lawsuit initiated by the Raiders over ticket-sale promises given to the team when it returned to Oakland in 1995.

Updated: 10-29-2003


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