Smerlas, whose company, All Pro, participated in a charity game between former Patriots players and students at Nashoba Valley Regional High School on Saturday, said that he was surprised by the reaction to the game. He said he spoke to one of the parents of the students today and offered to set up a meeting to discuss their concerns.
“We will do whatever it takes to go over there and talk to the kids, to make sure everyone’s happy,” he said. “This is not how it’s supposed to be. It’s a fund-raiser.”
Parents and students who participated in the game complained they were roughed up by the former pro football players, and that the players used vulgar language. The game was organized by the Stow Police Benevolent Association. The students signed up thinking they would be playing with the officers, but no officers showed up.
The former Patriots players included Vernon Crawford, Max Lane, Robert Perryman, Matt Chatham, Steve DeOssie, Ed Ellis, and Garin Veris, who now works as an athletic director in Haverhill.
Smerlas called the players professionals who meant no harm, and that perhaps the rough-housing was a product of the players’ size in what became a competitive game with the students.
“These are 300-pound guys,” he said. “If they block you out, they’re going to block out the sun.”
Tom O’Brien, athletic director for Nashoba, said earlier that parents were upset that the play was too rough. At one point, there was a confrontation and one of the students went down. O’Brien could not be reached for comment today.
Smerlas said the game was competitive, but that the players shook hands afterwards and went on their way. He never expected the firestorm that erupted.
The All Pro team won the game. “Why do you think they’re upset?” Smerlas said, joking.
But getting serious again, he said that the game was supposed to be entertaining. Two referees were present. “But it’s a basketball game, and there’s contact,” he said.
“If there is a problem, the kids were upset, if some of them thought the game was too rough, we’ll gladly go up there,” he said.
At the least, they can have a meeting. And, perhaps a second game.
Smerlas proposed letting the news reporters who have covered the story referee the game.
“We can whack them,” he joked.
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