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Coast Guard finds overturned boat off Florida coast

One person is clinging to the wreckage; no word yet on whether it is one of two NFL linemen aboard the lost fishing boat.

March 03, 2009|Wire Reports

CLEARWATER, FLA. — The Coast Guard refined its search for two NFL players and another man after the fourth member of the fishing party was found Monday clinging to the group's capsized boat off the coast of Florida.

Survivor Nick Schuyler, a former University of South Florida player, told rescuers that the boat the four good friends were aboard was anchored when it flipped Saturday evening in rough seas, said Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close.

Schuyler, who was wearing a life vest, had been hanging on to the hull that a Coast Guard cutter discovered 35 miles off Clearwater.

The 21-foot boat belongs to Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, who, along with free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley, were missing.

The Coast Guard wouldn't speculate on the men's chances of survival, but Petty Officer Robert Simpson said their size and good health were advantages. Cooper, 26, is 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, and the 29-year-old Smith is 6-2 and 250 pounds. The 25-year-old Bleakley played tight end.

"With all of these men being past, present football players, they do have a much larger physique than a lot of people," Simpson said. "So their odds are going to be definitely in their favor."

Schuyler was conscious but appeared weak as he was being taken off a helicopter at Tampa General Hospital and put on a stretcher.

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