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Two players missing on boat off Florida coast

THE US Coast Guard searched the Gulf of Mexico off Florida on Sunday for a missing boat with four people aboard, including two National Football League players.

Defensive end Corey Smith, who played last season with the Detroit Lions, and linebacker Marquis Cooper, who was with the Oakland Raiders, were on the boat, said Ron Del Duca, Smith's agent.

The other two men were identified as Nick Skyler and William Bleakley, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Smith and Cooper were friends who began their professional careers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL team that plays not far from where the missing boat left shore in Clearwater, Florida, early on Saturday morning.

"They both played ball with the Tampa Bay Bucs, both live in the Tampa area and work out at the same gym," said Del Duca, who described Cooper as an experienced sailor.

He said the men left on Cooper's boat for a fishing trip and apparently ran into a storm front.

"The weather was fine when they left, but a cold front came through," he said. "Wind and waves."

A small boat advisory was in effect on Sunday for Gulf waters off Clearwater, warning of potentially dangerous conditions.

The forecast called for winds up to 50 kilometers per hour and seas up to three meters near shore and 4.3 meters offshore on Sunday night. Temperatures on shore could dip as low as 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 degrees Celsius), forecasters said.

The six-meter boat left from a boat ramp at Clearwater Pass and was reported missing when it failed to return as scheduled. The Coast Guard said it was searching about 80 km west of Clearwater Pass.

According to the NFL, Smith, 29, played college football at North Carolina State and has 83 tackles and 8 1/2 sacks in six seasons with Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Detroit.

Cooper, 26, has 37 tackles in five seasons split between Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Seattle, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Oakland.


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