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High profile

Bill Romanowski

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2003

THE MAN: Step onto the field with Bill Romanowski and you better know where he is at all times. Otherwise he'll announce his presence with a finger through the face mask or shot in the back. The NFL's answer to the WWE, the 15-year veteran out of Boston College is the true embodiment of a Raider. He's tough, mean, vocal and has been around the block. After spending his first six seasons in San Francisco, he played for the Eagles for two and Denver for six before signing with Oakland during the offseason. Romanowski, 36, could not have lasted so long -- starting 130 consecutive games -- without being productive. The strongside linebacker entered the season with 1,098 career tackles and finished second among Raiders with 90 (68 solo) and four sacks. He had six stops in the AFC Championship Game against the Titans.

LONE WOLF: Romanowski is loved by his teammates, except for the rookies he hazes, because he produces on many levels. "I'm a hated player around the league, but when I'm on a team, I'm a guy you like," he said. Romanowski hustles, he intimidates, he distracts opponents with his controversial remarks, such as his criticism of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's training methods. That doesn't mean you'll be splitting a pizza with him, however. "Romo is a guy that was pretty much to himself. I think that's the way he wanted it. He didn't want to get close to anyone; he didn't want anyone to get close to him," former Broncos teammate Shannon Sharpe said.

NOT DONE YET: Romanowski, who won two Super Bowls each with Denver and San Francisco, asked to be released from his contract with the Broncos last year when the emergence of Ian Gold, who is 12 years younger, was about to take away his job. Feeling he fit in with the silver-and-black mentality, Romanowski signed a six-year deal with Oakland and became another veteran asset for a team buoyed by vets like Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Rich Gannon.

GAME FACE: Romanowski is not the linebacker you bring home to mom and dad. He's learned all the dirty little tricks of his position in 15 seasons in the league, and there's not a ball carrier near the sidelines or runner almost on the turf at whom he won't make a head-first lunge.

INTIMIDATOR: Romanowski gained infamy in 1998 when he spat in 49ers wide receiver J.J. Stokes' face during a nationally televised game. This season, in his second meeting with Denver, Romanowski knocked quarterback Brian Griese out of the game with a knee injury.

LAST ONE STANDING: Despite all the enemies he's made, no one has been able to take Romanowski out -- though an indictment for illegally obtaining diet pills threatened to in 1999 -- and until they do, Romo will be coming for them.

-- With information from Times archives

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