AUSTIN (AP) — Texas’ 2007 season got off to a rough start Sunday with two players being suspended for the first three games and the news that an assistant coach has prostate cancer.
The Longhorns reported to training camp and coach Mack Brown announced that linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive end Henry Melton, both charged with DWI this summer, will miss three games. And third-year running backs coach Ken Rucker said he has cancer and will have surgery later this month.
Kindle and Melton will miss games against Arkansas State, TCU and Central Florida as punishment for being arrested over the summer.
The players will also be held out of the first couple of days of practice when they will visit with a woman whose son was crippled by a drunk driver, Brown said. He did not identify the woman. The players also must perform some form of community service on behalf of the team before they will be allowed to play.
“I think we’ve got to send a message and kids have to learn,” Brown said. “It is a good opportunity for our football team to step up and talk about how serious we feel about drinking and driving.”
Kindle, a sophomore, was expected to compete for significant playing time this season after playing in 11 games in 2006. Melton, a former short-yardage running back, moved to defensive end full time in the spring.
“This punishes the team. They are both good players,” Brown said.
Several Longhorns have faced criminal charges in recent months.
A third player, freshman linebacker Dre Jones, was suspended indefinitely last week after being charged with aggravated robbery. A fourth player, former safety Robert Joseph, was charged in the same incident. Joseph had already left the team after being arrested in a separate incident over the summer.
Brown said he does not think the arrests have ruined his reputation for running a clean program.
“I need to step up and take responsibility for anything negative and to be a strong leader,” Brown said.
Senior defensive lineman Frank Okam said other players can learn from the suspensions.
“Here you have a standard you have to uphold and be accountable for,” Okam said.
Rucker said his prostate cancer was diagnosed after a regular visit with his doctor and that the disease was caught early. Although he initially hoped to have surgery after the season, it is scheduled for Aug. 27. Rucker will coach with the team until then and said he hopes to return before the end of the season.
“When you have cancer, you want to get it out,” Rucker said. “With time, I’m going to be fine.”
Brown said he hoped that by the start of practice Monday, his team will focus on the Sept. 1 season opener against Arkansas State instead and not the off-field troubles.
“I’ve spent more time the last 10 days thinking about things other than football,” Brown said. “I’d like to get back to football.”