OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens are in grieving mode following the shocking death of former Ravens linebacker and Iraq War veteran Tony Fein early Tuesday morning in his hometown of Port Orchard, Wash.
Although no official cause of death has been determined by the coroner, the former Delta infantry Army scout died of an apparent suicide, according to his Baltimore attorney, Warren A. Brown.
“I’ve been told that it was a suicide,” Brown told the Carroll County Times. “It’s very sad.”
Kitsap County coroner Greg Sandstrom said that an autopsy will be performed as well as toxicology tests, adding that it will take six to eight weeks to discover the results.
Fein, 27, was cut by the Ravens during their final major roster cutdown on Sept. 5.
“Just shocked and saddened,” somber Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Tony Fein was a really good teammate, a tremendous American, a tremendous young man. He’s a Raven to us, and always will be, and just a really good person.
“We were proud to have him here as a part of our team. Just unbelievably disappointed about the news.”
The undrafted rookie free agent from Ole Miss was discovered face down, unconscious, vomiting and hardly breathing when an ambulance arrived at an apartment where he was staying.
Although medics placed a breathing tube down Fein’s throat and gave him medication, he went into cardiac arrest while being transported to Harrison Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at nearly 10 a.m. PST Tuesday, according to hospital officials.
Foul play wasn’t suspected.
"It’s a shock," D.J. Sigurdson, Fein’s football coach at South Kitsaps High School, said in a telephone interview. "I can’t believe it."
Fein enlisted in the Army at age 19 after graduating from high school in Port Orchard, Wash. He served in the Persian Gulf primarily as a Delta scout before being honorably discharged after a nearly three-year enlistment.
“Being in the military really was a life-changing experience,” Fein said during a training camp interview in August. “It makes you grow up fast. It teaches you a lot about teamwork and doing your job.
Fein was involved in a controversy while with the Ravens.
He was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault on a police officer during an Aug. 23 incident at a Johnny Rockets restaurant in the Inner Harbor prior to a preseason game.
According to a police report, Fein initially refused to stand up when police officers approached him after being notified by security guards that a group of men were passing around a large, silver metallic object believed to be a gun that was actually a cellular phone.
When asked to stand again, Fein allegedly shoved an officer in the chest and was arrested.
Fein’s agent, Milton D. Hobbs, accused the police of racial profiling, an allegation the Baltimore City police department vehemently denied.
The case was going to be thrown out, though, with the trial scheduled for Wednesday.
Prosecutors had informed Fein and his lawyer last week that they were going to dismiss the charges because of conflicting versions of events from witnesses.
“He was irritated by the case because he didn’t feel he did anything wrong,” Brown said. “He was bothered by it. He found it humiliating. He was considering filing a civil lawsuit.”
According to Brown, Fein had been in a downcast mood in recent weeks.
Hobbs told the Associated Press that there hadn’t been any indication that Fein had intended to harm himself, suggesting that he may have died accidentally.
At Ole Miss, Fein started at middle linebacker and recorded 136 career tackles in two seasons.
A former high school quarterback, Fein finished second on the team in tackles as a junior.
It was Fein who recorded a pivotal tackle in the Rebels’ upset victory over then-No. 1 Florida prior to a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech last season.
Fein also won the Pat Tillman award, which is presented to a college athlete who has fought on a battlefield like the late Arizona Cardinals safety who was accidentally killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
“He was a great guy, he always had a smile on his face,” said Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher, who played with Fein at Ole Miss for the past two seasons. “He loved the game of football and wanted to be a part of it.
“We shared victories with him, so it was a heartbreaker to hear it. We went to battle together.”
At Ole Miss’ campus Pro Day, Fein opened some NFL scouts’ eyes when he bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds and registered a vertical leap of 37 1/2 inches and a 10-1 broad jump.
He was signed by Baltimore after trying out at a rookie minicamp in June following an unsuccessful tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.
“He was a friend of mine and it was great to be around him,” Ravens running back Matt Lawrence said. “He had a great personality. Your heart goes out to Tony because he was such a good guy and it’s such a sad thing.”
Per Hobbs, Fein had been working out back in Port Orchard and hoping for another chance to play football.
Funeral arrangements haven’t been completed yet.
“He was a humble young man, always searching for some type of direction,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “It’s really sad. My heart definitely goes out to his family and friends because it’s such a tragic death for someone to be that young and go through the things he’s been through.
“Our heart definitely goes out to his family. It’s heartfelt when you wake up and get news like that with someone you just went to war with."