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They're Spitting on His Image

Pro football: Dobler says Romanowski never should have apologized.

January 22, 1998|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The Denver Broncos conducted a team meeting earlier this season to determine if Bill Romanowski, who had spit on San Francisco receiver J.J. Stokes, was racist or stupid, and came to the unanimous conclusion he was stupid.

Everyone else pretty much agrees that "Romo" also is a dirty player. He has been fined $20,000 for busting the jaw of Carolina quarterback Kerry Collins in an exhibition game, fined $4,500 for kicking an offensive player in the head while with Philadelphia, incited teammate Jerry Rice to fight him--in practice and gotten in the face of Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart to belittle and ridicule him for playing poorly.

He may be the dirtiest player in football.

This offends Conrad Dobler, former offensive lineman for the St. Louis Cardinals, a well-known biter who once broke an opponent's arm on purpose to teach him a lesson.

Dobler watched Romanowski spit in Stokes' face during the infamous Monday night game between Denver and San Francisco, then took notice of his Apology Tour.

Dobler's conclusion: Romo isn't racist or stupid--he's a phony.

"Society expects him to be politically correct and say he's sorry and so he says he's sorry," Dobler said. "Does he mean it? Probably not.

"It's the game; it's a barroom brawl. You've got guys 300 pounds taking five-yard running starts and then colliding. Lee Roy Jordan bit me in the thumb the first game I played in the NFL--welcome to the NFL--and might have bitten all the way through, but his retainer came out and so he was just gumming me. But that's the way the game goes."

Dobler, known for biting fingers and noses, prompted the Cowboys to tape the holes in their helmets to keep him from jabbing his fingers into their ears in pileups. He broke the arm of a Buffalo defender to teach him not be so aggressive.

"The stupid [expletive] didn't play again the rest of the year," said Dobler, a former teammate of the player. "Hey, I told him to lay off of me in practice when he was here. He didn't get the message until I broke his freakin' arm."

And Dobler offered no Romo-like apology.

"You play middle linebacker and you have this 350-pound guard sticking you under the chin and then this 245-pound running back trying to run your [rear] over and everyone wants you to be polite!" Dobler shouted. "But hey, that's where we are as a society today, and if he's gotta be politically correct, well shoot, then that's what you give the media."

Romo has said he's sorry so many times he's starting to sound like a Charger coach after another loss.

"I'm not going to make any excuses for what I did," he said. "I was wrong, I embarrassed myself, my family, my teammates and the people of Denver. It's something that will never happen again."

Next thing you know, he will be entering the monastery.

"He's probably Catholic and has a lot of original sin, and instead of confession, has gone public confessing his sins," Dobler said. "Come on, it's this whole business about the way you have to behave today--he's been conditioned to make amends. Politically speaking, he must apologize, but he's not going to be any different on the field."

On the field, said Denver defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, "Romo just goes nuts."

But is he a dirty player?

"The stories you guys write are a lot better if you're talking about a dirty player instead of just a totally consumed aggressive player," Dobler said. "I always said it was victim-precipitated violence. I didn't do anything that someone wasn't begging me to do. . . . Some men get vasectomies; I give them."

That will be the end of that interview.

"I'm definitely a different person on and off the field," Romanowski said. "At times there are people in the real world that can't do anything to get rid of their frustrations--football's a big release for me."

Romanowski, fined $7,500 for spitting at Stokes, says Stokes was in his face yelling at him, and he just lost it. Of course he didn't mention that Stokes was upset because he had just been in a pileup and Romanowski had been grabbing him, ah, below the belt.

"I had a guy spit in my face once," said Sean Jones, former Packer and Raider, now a broadcaster. "Denver tight end Clarence Kay spit in my face and I went to the sideline straight to the trainer's medical kit, took out a scalpel and was making my way back onto the field when Howie Long stopped me.

"Romanowski just picked on the right guy."

While Stokes took the abuse, Romanowski's teammates, Shannon Sharpe and Willie Green, suggested at the time that the fine would have been heavier had a black player spit on a white player.

"Put it like this: I wonder what would've happened if Alfred Williams and Neil Smith had done that to Steve Young," Sharpe said.

Said Green: "I think it should be played more up than [Latrell] Sprewell," who choked Golden State Warrior Coach P.J. Carlesimo. "I think it's worse than what Sprewell did."

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