Saints Trade Troubled Linebacker Royal

Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints traded troubled linebacker Andre Royal to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday as a majority of NFL teams made moves to reach the mandatory roster size of 53 players.

The Saints acquired tight end Scott Slutzker from the Colts for Royal, having been short-handed at that position because of injuries, including that of No. 2 draft pick Cam Cleeland. Cleeland was injured in a training camp hazing incident on Aug. 20 in La Crosse, Wis., in which Royal is the only player to publicly admit to taking part in.

Cleeland missed the third exhibition game because of blurred vision and severe headaches caused when he was hit in the head with a bag of coins. Cleeland and other rookies were forced to put a pillowcase over their heads and run through 20 to 30 players lined up on each side of a dormitory hallway.

Royal admitted taking part in the gantlet and said he had a bag of coins he had collected during camp. He denied hitting Cleeland with it, however.

Royal said he hit some players with elbows and bumped others. "But it wasn't nothing to hurt."

Royal, signed as a free agent this spring by the Saints after previously attaining All-Pro status with the Carolina Panthers, was expected to start at strong-side linebacker. He was replaced in the Saints' final exhibition game by backup Keith Mitchell.

Royal was arrested the night before he signed a guaranteed $3.085 million contract with the Saints when he refused to pay for private dances at a French Quarter strip club. He later settled with the club, but the stripper is suing Royal, claiming he hit her.

Royal reported to training camp late and missed most of the practices because of a strained calf muscle. He later got into a shouting match with Saint Coach Mike Ditka when Ditka implied he might be faking the injury.

Ditka refused to talk to reporters Sunday.

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First-round draft pick Jason Peter ended his six-week holdout and reported to the Carolina Panthers, whose pool of defensive linemen has been thinned by injuries.

Peter, taken with the 14th overall selection after being named a first-team All-American at Nebraska, signed a four-year contract that contains an option by the Panthers for a fifth season. The deal, which includes a signing bonus of $3.8 million, could end up being worth $7.5 million, which is about $200,000 more than what Carolina offered at the start of training camp.

Panther defensive linemen Shawn King (biceps tendon) and Chuck Wiley (Achilles' tendon) are lost for the the season because of injuries, while Les Miller (knee) and Sean Gilbert (thumb) have been sidelined most of the exhibition season and their status for Sunday's regular-season opener against Atlanta is uncertain.

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Jeff Hostetler, the Washington Redskins' backup quarterback, suffered a damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Friday's exhibition loss to the Buffalo Bills, and team officials have begun to make contingency plans in case Hostetler is sidelined for much or all of the season. Hostetler, 37, is scheduled to be examined today in Colorado by orthopedist Richard Steadman.

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The Minnesota Vikings released Larry Brown, a Super Bowl most valuable player with Dallas, but agreed to pay the cornerback three games worth of his 1998 base salary--$48,000--as an injury settlement. Brown sprained his left ankle Aug. 22 and struggled throughout the preseason with several minor injuries. The eight-year veteran has been trying to restart his career after two disappointing seasons with the Oakland Raiders. Brown signed with the Vikings on June 16, agreeing to a two-year contract worth just less than $1 million. . . . Rick Mirer, the second overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1993 draft, was released as expected by the Chicago Bears. The Bears were unable to find a taker for Mirer and his $10 million contract. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, any team that signed Mirer would have had to pay him at least $1.425 million. . . . The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut veteran wide receiver Horace Copeland, who was unable to beat out free-agent acquisition Bert Emanuel or second-year player Reidel Anthony for a starting job and had slipped out of the team's plans entirely. Copeland is two years removed from major knee surgery and coming off a season in which he had 33 receptions for 431 yards and one touchdown. . . . The Green Bay Packers traded 33-year-old linebacker Seth Joyner to the Denver Broncos for undisclosed considerations and released 34-year-old offensive lineman Bruce Wilkerson, a starter for the team in its Super Bowl championship season in 1996. Joyner signed with the Packers last summer, but was hampered by knee surgery and a switch from middle linebacker to the outside. Other veterans who failed to make the Packer roster were defensive back Terry McDaniel and defensive end Eric Curry.

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