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Autopsy Performed On Second Football Player To Die

June 28, 1986

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ There was no indication of criminal activity or drug use at a bachelor’s party that was given for 23-year-old professional football star Don Rogers the night before he lapsed into a coma and died, said homicide Detective Dale Adam on Saturday.

An autopsy was being performed Saturday on the Cleveland Browns defensive back as homicide detectives investigated his mysterious death.

Rogers’ death of heart failure Friday came eight days after the cocaine- related death of 22-year-old Len Bias, an All-American basketball player at Maryland.

″We have heard rumors of drug use,″ Loren Willeford, senior investigator for the Sacramento County coroner’s office, said before the autopsy. ″We are not ruling out any reason for the cause of death, but we do not now have a cause of death.″

″Everybody’s going to think about the Len Bias thing, and of course you don’t know until they do an examination,″ said fellow Browns player Bob Golic.

Ken Easley of the Seattle Seahawks, a former teammate of Rogers at UCLA, said he ″would be as surprised as any person on the face of this earth if (Rogers’ death) is drug-related, and I would certainly hope and pray to God that it isn’t.″

Paul Warfield, former Browns star and player relations director, said he spoke with Rogers by telephone about two hours before he collapsed.

″Paul said Don sounded fine,″ said Kevin Byrne, a team spokesman. ″He said he seemed excited about getting married.″

Rogers, Cleveland’s No. 1 draft pick in 1984 and selected by the Players Association as the American Football Conference’s Defensive Rookie of the Year that season, collapsed Friday morning at a house he had bought for his mother in this city where he grew up.

Robert Fagan, who lives across the street, said he heard someone crying out for help.

″I was in my kitchen and I heard what sounded like pounding on the walls,″ he said. ″I heard someone yelling, ‘Help me,’ and they kept yelling for a few minutes. I was getting ready to call 911 (police emergency) when the fire trucks and an ambulance came.″

None of the six to eight people at the house mentioned the possibility of drug use, said Mike Meighan, supervisor for the ambulance crew.

″At the time we picked him up, he was in a coma,″ Meighan said. ″He was in a life-threatening state. He was unconscious.″

Rogers was rushed to a northern Sacramento hospital, then transferred to Mercy San Juan Hospital where he died in the afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Connie Huff said.

″On behalf of the Browns, I can only express shock and anguish at the sudden and tragic death of Don Rogers,″ said Browns owner Art Modell.

Rogers was scheduled to be married Saturday in Sacramento to 22-year-old Leslie Nelson.

Most relatives and friends who gathered Saturday at Rogers’ mother’s home refused to discuss the death with a reporter.

″What happened is strange, really freaky,″ Ed Johnson, Rogers’ uncle by marriage. ″I’m still trying to get my composure.″

Otis Nixon of the Cleveland Indians, who lives in the same Cleveland condominium complex as Rogers, said he had ″always known him as straight. I would have no idea of him doing drugs.″

″This really hits home,″ said Golic. ″You see this guy every day, and all of a sudden he’s not around. It’s scary in a way.

″Here’s a guy in top physical condition. He just had a physical back in May. These are very complete exams. How can a guy like that die?″

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