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Alleged Hazing Incident Sidelines Cleeland

PRO FOOTBALL / DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE NFL

August 24, 1998|Associated Press

New Orleans Saint rookie tight end Cam Cleeland was scratched from the starting lineup after complaining of blurred vision before Saturday night's exhibition against the Tennessee Oilers in New Orleans.

Cleeland, a second-round draft choice from Washington, reportedly was struck in the face during a hazing incident early Thursday at the players' dormitory on the campus of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

Cleeland came out for pregame warmups in his uniform then changed into street clothes and watched the game from the sideline.

Asked if he had broken his nose during the alleged incident, Cleeland said, "It's on straight isn't it? My [right] ankle is still a little sore."

Asked about Cleeland's absence, Coach Mike Ditka said Cleeland's vision was blurred.

"He had a problem seeing," Ditka said. "He had like a headache and blurred vision, so he didn't play. That's all I know. They told me right on the field, so I didn't know anything else."

Cleeland had been expected to start against the Oilers.

First-round draft choice Kyle Turley, an offensive tackle from San Diego State, and rookie free-agent Jeff Danish also received minor injuries in the hazing incident that happened the final night of training camp.

Danish's injury required stitches to close wounds to his left hand and arm apparently cut by a broken window.

Ditka refused to provide details or say if he fined any veteran players involved in the hazing. Ditka earlier warned his players against hazing rookies.

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Cincinnati Bengal Coach Brue Coslet made it official, saying Neil O'Donnell, and not Jeff Blake, will be the starting quarterback.

Where does that leave Blake?.

"I'll take what I can get," said Blake, who played sparingly in a 33-19 exhibition victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night. "When I have an opportunity, that's when I go out and do the best I can. It's Bruce's team and Bruce is going to make the call.

"O'Donnell has had a good preseason. He moved the ball downfield. I can't really say anything, though. It's all up to Bruce."

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The San Diego Chargers' regular season hasn't even begun, but the city already owes the team $300,000 in reduced rent under a controversial ticket agreement.

The team fell 7,310 seats short of filling 60,000 general-admission seats at the Chargers' exhibition opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 8.

This year, all games--including exhibitions--count when it comes to the city's guarantee to credit the Chargers for any general-admission ticket sales that do not reach the annual per-game average of 60,000 fans.

Official figures for last week's game against the St. Louis Rams were not available Friday, but even fewer people were believed to have shown up.

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Ever outspoken, Denver Bronco tight end Shannon Sharpe scolded himself and his teammates, and it's not just because they play the team they beat in last January's Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers, tonight at Denver.

Sharpe views the game as the last chance for the Broncos to put together a complete, cohesive performance before their regular-season opener Sept. 7 against New England.

The Broncos, 2-0 in the preseason, will have one more exhibition remaining, Saturday at Tennessee, but reserves are likely to see most of the playing time in that one.

"I don't know how much the starters are going to play in the Tennessee game," Sharpe said. "I'm sure there is going to be a mixture, so this is our last chance to get together the team that is going to be on the field come Sept. 7. We are approaching this game like it is a regular-season game.

"This is the last chance for our offense and defense to get the cohesion and start to jell. We started out good in camp, but sometime in the New Orleans game [last Friday] we got lax. Maybe it was too easy for us to go down the field and score on that first drive. For some reason we got sloppy, and that is very uncharacteristic of us. We need to get back on track--now."

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