Turner’s Death Shocks NFL, UCLA
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two weeks ago, Oakland Raiders defensive back Eric Turner vehemently denied he was seriously ill. Now, Turner is dead, and colleagues are stunned.
``I talked to him when we played Oakland in the preseason,″ said Terry Donahue, director of personnel for the San Francisco 49ers. ``I sent him a letter a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t know if he ever got it.″
Donahue, head coach at UCLA when Turner had his best year in 1990, called him ``as good a Bruin football player as there ever was.″
Turner, 31, died Sunday at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks. The cause of death appeared to be complications of abdominal cancer, medical examiner Craig Stevens said.
Early in May, reports surfaced that Turner had stomach cancer and lost 70 pounds from his playing weight of 215.
Two weeks ago, Turner released a statement through his agents calling the reports unfounded.
``I realize people are concerned, but I have chosen to keep this issue within my family,″ Turner said. ``Contrary to published reports, I have not lost 70 pounds and am not gravely ill.″
Raiders officials initially refused to comment on his health. Turner had missed the club’s mini-camp in April.
On Sunday, a recorded hospital statement said he had difficulty breathing and was taken to the facility by ambulance. He was admitted to the intensive care unit, where he died about six hours later.
``Eric was certainly one of the top players we had during my 21 years at UCLA,″ Bruins defensive coordinator Bob Field said. ``This is a tragic loss for anyone who knew him.″
Turner was a ``respected warrior on the field and a great teammate,″ the Raiders said.
``The Raiders will miss Eric’s special qualities,″ the statement said. ``Unfortunately, millions of people will not be exposed to the greatness of Eric Turner’s winning personality and talents in the decades to come.″
Raiders coach Jon Gruden called Turner ``a great guy who will be sorely missed by a lot of people. We’re going to miss this guy terribly.″
``He was compassionate and a class act,″ Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman said. ``It was truly a pleasure to have known Eric and I will miss him.″
Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert said: ``He always brought his competitive nature to the team, especially on defense.″
Originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the second overall pick in the 1991 draft, Turner signed with the Raiders in 1997 after making his second Pro Bowl in 1996 with the Baltimore Ravens.
Turner led the Raiders with 111 tackles in 1997, but was limited to six games in 1998 and 10 games last season because of injuries.