The family of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Eric Zeier escaped serious injury when their small plane crashed a few hours before he played in an exhibition game.
Zeier's parents and sister were flying to see Saturday night's game against Cleveland when the Cessna 172 piloted by his father, Rick, lost power and came down near Chiefland, about 100 miles north of Tampa and 25 miles southwest of Gainesville, Fla.
The Bucs learned of the accident about 25 minutes before kickoff, but didn't tell Zeier until after the game because the club had been assured there were no injuries.
"As soon as the game ended, I found him," said Reggie Roberts, the team's director of communications. "The first thing I said to him was: `Everybody's fine. Your parents had to make an emergency landing.' He was visibly upset and immediately got on the phone and talked to his dad."
Rick Zeier, 48, has had his pilot's license for about a month and was making the trip with his wife Sharon, 49; daughter, Ellen, 21; and James Strickland, 25.
The family planned to land at Vandenburg Airport outside Tampa and proceed to Raymond James Stadium for the game, Levy County Sheriff's Maj. Bobby McCallum said.
"For some unknown reason, [the plane] lost power," McCallum said. "I think he went through all his emergency checks and so forth and decided to try and land it on County Road 347."
As the plane headed down, McCallum said, Zeier did not see a power line. A part of the plane's rear clipped the line, sending the plane tumbling to the ground before coming to rest upside-down.
"All four of them were shook up and had minor injuries, but none of them required hospitalization," McCallum said.
Zeier played at the University of Georgia and was drafted by the old Cleveland Browns in 1995. He moved with the club to Baltimore the following season and was traded this spring from the Ravens to Tampa Bay.
The fifth-year pro, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 135 yards Saturday night, spoke with his family again by telephone yesterday before they left Chiefland to drive back to their Atlanta-area home.
The Bucs didn't practice yesterday, but were to resume their regular training camp schedule today.
PATRIOTS: After spending most of the next day poring over videotapes of Friday night's preseason loss to the Redskins, Coach Pete Carroll concluded that most of his first impressions had been on the money.
Drew Bledsoe had been on target with most of his throws, rookie tailback Kevin Faulk had run well and rookie quarterback Michael Bishop had made all sorts of good things happen.
But communications and coordination among defensive players had been poor, the kicking game had been poorer and the tackling, especially near the line of scrimmage, had stunk.
"We looked out of sync on defense," the coach said in the Providence Journal. "We weren't nearly as sharp as we need to be after a couple of weeks [of training camp]. There was some newness there . . . that caused us to have some plays get outside and that's why we looked so soft inside."
Bledsoe suffered a "mildly sprained" right ankle. Carroll said the injury didn't appear serious and Bledsoe returned to the practice field yesterday.