Maryland football team says scooter cartoon was in poor taste

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 5:31 PM

The Maryland football players who are dedicating this season's games to Pete DeSouza, the right tackle who broke both legs in an on-campus motor scooter accident Thursday, said they have another source of motivation: an editorial cartoon in Tuesday's campus newspaper.

Players were upset with a cartoon in the Diamondback, Maryland's independent daily student newspaper, that depicts a woman wondering why a football player appears to be wearing a football helmet, pads and cleats even though there is no game that day. The player, standing beside a motor scooter, responds: "There isn't. But I'm afraid to hurt myself on my scooter."

Calling the cartoon "insensitive," Coach Ralph Friedgen addressed the cartoon without being asked about it during his Tuesday news conference. He said it "only keeps arousing the emotion in our football players. Pete is a very dear person to our team. We're very lucky to have Pete with us, trust me. If he landed on his head, he probably would not be here right now. So we're pretty sensitive to what kind of jokes are written about it."

Friedgen visited DeSouza in the intensive-care unit of a local hospital on Sunday, and players trickled in throughout the day to offer support to the redshirt freshman. Friedgen said DeSouza, who underwent 12 hours of surgery Friday after breaking two bones in each leg, has been moved out of intensive care now that his blood pressure has stabilized, but he will remain in the hospital.

Alex Wujciak, a senior linebacker for Maryland, said the cartoon was on players' minds when they saw it at breakfast Tuesday. "It's pretty messed up," he said. "Here is a kid, it's not his fault, it's a freak thing that happens. It's an accident, he's lucky to be alive. If you would have seen the scooter, you would have thought there was more than two broken legs. Some people try to take it out of context like it was some little scooter accident. It was pretty serious."

Said safety Kenny Tate: "If you are having a good day, it [the cartoon] just tears you down. I don't know why anyone would joke about an accident."

Offensive lineman R.J. Dill, who said he spent the weekend praying that DeSouza would be able to walk again, said he took offense to the cartoon by Morgan Noonan.

Editors from The Diamondback did not immediately respond to e-mails and a voicemail left Tuesday afternoon.

DeSouza was injured while driving his scooter near Cole Field House on Thursday night. He collided with a motorist attempting to turn left in front of his scooter. The motorist was issued a citation for failing to yield right of way.

Players said the accident - even though DeSouza was not at fault - was a reminder of the dangers of motor scooters, which they estimated about half the team drives around campus.

Dill said the accident will not dissuade him from riding his in the future because "you can't control other people. You are really defenseless on a scooter. What happened to Pete could have happened to anyone. He was obeying traffic laws." Dill said he will exercise more caution while driving his scooter, adding that his father now wants him to wear a helmet because he has never worn one.

Tate said his scooter has been broken and that now he is in no rush to fix it. And Wujciak, who does not own a scooter but drives those belonging to his three roommates, appreciates the dangers, especially when two players ride one at the same time.

"Those are pretty dangerous," Wujciak said. "You've got to be a defensive driver. You get two 300-pounders on there, it could be dangerous."

Arnett to help O-line

Friedgen said De'Onte Arnett, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman, has been granted his request to switch to the offensive line because of the lack of depth following DeSouza's season-ending injury. Friedgen said he had also been contemplating moving the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Arnett, a former highly touted high school defensive end from Capitol Heights, in his efforts to solidify the offensive line.

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