<
>

Bears' Manning says he did not beat man

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive back
Ricky Manning Jr. didn't want to go to trial during the season or have a
jury decide his fate.

Ricky Manning Jr. Manning Jr.

So he pleaded no contest Tuesday to a felony assault charge
stemming from an altercation with a man in a Los Angeles
restaurant, even though he said he didn't commit a crime.

"I didn't do what he accused me of," Manning said Wednesday.

Manning and two other former UCLA football players -- Tyler Ebell
and Maurice Jones-Drew -- were accused of punching and kicking a man in
the face until he lost consciousness at a Denny's restaurant near
the Westwood campus early in the morning on April 23. Manning, who
initially pleaded not guilty, faced up to four years in prison if
convicted.

Instead, he was placed on three years probation and ordered to
attend a year of anger management counseling. He must also complete
100 hours of community service with a municipality or public agency
or nationally recognized philanthropic organization not associated
with the Bears.

A civil suit was filed in May, and Manning faces possible
punishment from the NFL.

But Manning said, "It wasn't a plea where I'm saying, 'Yeah, I
did it. I was wrong.'

"If I don't plea to this, I have to go through trial," added
said Manning, who was already on probation for a similar
misdemeanor offense four years ago near UCLA.

"We're in season now. Then, I'd have to put it in the hands of
a jury. There are tons of things that can happen with a jury. They
can say it's a conspiracy, that I conspired with other guys to beat
this guy up. I just can't risk that. I would rather put it all in
my hands, be on probation, keeping my nose clean and not get in any
trouble."

Manning acknowledged he exchanged words with the man and pushed
his head, but he said he walked away after that. He and his
companions left and were pulled over by police.

He said none of the three was involved in the beating.

An assault charge against Drew, now with the Jacksonville
Jaguars, was dismissed in June because of insufficient evidence,
and Ebell's felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor.

"I didn't see who he got into it with," Manning said. "I
don't know the guys he got into it with. I had walked away from the
situation. When he started fighting someone, I had no idea who it
was. ... I know it wasn't with me."

A day later, Manning signed a five-year, $21 million offer sheet
with the Bears.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, general manager Jerry
Angelo called the incident "embarrassing," and Manning did not
argue.

"It is embarrassing that I have to go through this," Manning
said. "I feel embarrassed for the team. But what can you do now?"