Traces of cocaine or other illegal drugs were found in the urine of nine of 150 college football players who attended a tryout camp in Tampa in January, according to a Florida newspaper.
The Orlando Sentinel reported all nine players were chosen in the National Football League's draft in April.
Jim Heffernan, a spokesman for the NFL, told the Associated Press the league received a report with the urinalysis results and the players' names after the tryout camp, which was conducted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under the auspices of the 16-team United Scouting Combine.
"We kept abreast of it," Heffernan said. "Physicals have been going on for years. I don't know if they were looking for drugs. Maybe they were. Obviously, they look for a lot of things."
The Sentinel said the camp involved drills and extensive physical examinations, including a mandatory urinalysis that turned up traces of illegal drugs in the nine players. They were not identified by the Sentinel.
Harry Buffington, head of the combine, told the Sentinel he was aware of the report. "As bad as we hate to admit it, nine out of 150 is probably a pretty low percentage," he said. "I would be shocked if there was less than that out of the normal student population."
Buffington could not be reached for additional comment.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Ken Herock, the Tampa Bay scouting chief who helped coordinate the camp, declined to discuss the results of the urinalysis.
He said, "All the information that goes through this (camp) is personal and confidential. Suppose a player had a bad back. We wouldn't release that information to people," Herock said. "Everything we do here is our personal business. I think the only reason this is coming out now is because of all the drug stories around the league this week."
Herock said the reports out of that camp were made available only to the combine teams. They are Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, Houston, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, New England, New Orleans, the New York Jets and Giants, San Diego, St. Louis and Washington.
Bobby Beathard, Redskins general manager, said yesterday he did not know the names of the nine players, but added, "We didn't draft any players that we had any question about drugs with. And if we did have a question, we would certainly have checked it out."
Beathard also said it was his understanding that urinalysis frequently turns up misleading results because "drugs like novocaine can test like cocaine."
Dan Reeves, head coach of the Broncos, said his team did not take the report from the tryout camp because of possible legal implications. "I wouldn't want a player coming to me saying I hadn't taken him because of an inconclusive test," Reeves said in a telephone interview. "And not to condone (the problems), but if you kick a guy off a team because he is supposedly on coke, how would you ever be able to help anyone?"
Reeves said he did not know if he had drafted any of the players in question. "If I did take one, I did not take him knowingly," he said.
Attempts by The Washington Post to reach coaches and executives at other teams in the United Scouting Combine were unsuccessful.
Earlier this week a national magazine published a first-person story by Don Reese, a former NFL player, in which he detailed his own problem with cocaine and alleged that its use is widespread in the league. He wrote that the league is turning its back on the problem, but the NFL denied the allegation Thursday.
Reese, who played for the San Diego Chargers in 1981 before being released late in the season, had spent a year in the Dade County Stockade for selling cocaine to undercover agents. He is currently on probation, which expires in August. Thursday, the Florida state's attorney for Dade County said her office is investigating whether Reese violated his probation by possessing cocaine, as he wrote in Sports Illustrated. If charged and convicted of probation violation, Reese would face a maximum sentence of 15 years, according to the state's attorney.
Reese told the Miami News he was surprised to hear Dade County officials were investigating him.
"I've got to talk to him," Reese was quoted as telling the newspaper in reference to Judge Joseph Durant, who sentenced him in 1977. Durant had said that if Reese had done what he wrote in the magazine, Durant would give him "the maximum penalty."
In the interview, which the newspaper said was conducted by telephone from a hospital in California, Reese said: "I want to explain to him to read the article before he makes statements. He should read it all before he says anything."
Beathard, who scouted and signed Reese while he was with the Miami Dolphins, said of the defensive end, "Don Reese was always the athlete with terrific potential. He had great ability, but was nonproductive.
"I always tried to get him to extend himself, to become a hard worker, but it was impossible. He could have been so much more if he had wanted to work."