Citing insufficient evidence, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Monday afternoon that assault charges against Jacksonville Jaguars rookie tailback Maurice Drew were dropped earlier in the day and that the pending case against the second-round draft pick was closed.
The charges stemmed from an April 23 incident in which Drew was alleged to have help beat and kick a man into unconsciousness in an early-morning confrontation at a Denny's restaurant. Veteran cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. of the Chicago Bears still faces assault charges in the case.
"To tell you the truth, I never felt any pressure," Drew told the Jaguars' team-owned Web site. "I knew in the end, it was going to come out that I was innocent. I'm just glad that I can [play] football now and I don't have to worry about any negative media."
The 60th player selected overall in April, the diminutive Drew (5-feet-6¾, 207 pounds) is projected by the Jaguars to contribute immediately as a return specialist and likely third-down tailback. The former UCLA star is a big-play performer and he rushed for 2,503 yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons with the Bruins before entering the 2006 draft as an underclass prospect.
In the days following the incident, Jacksonville officials were criticized for choosing Drew, but said they were aware of the potential charges and seemed confident he would be exonerated. Drew was apprised by his attorney on Monday morning that the Los Angeles district attorney would not pursue the charges.
Drew arrived in Jacksonville on Monday and was to begin participating in the club's final week of organized team activities. Because of NFL rules that prohibit rookies from participating in anything beyond their initial minicamp until their university has its commencement ceremonies, Drew and UCLA teammate Marcedes Lewis, the tight end chosen by the Jaguars in the first round, have not been able to take part in previous practices.
A civil suit filed against Drew by the victim of the attack remains intact, but agent Adisa Bakari said that he expects it to be dropped as well.
Drew said that, while he was at the restaurant and was eating near the victim, he had no role in the alleged attack. The alleged event was said to have been precipitated when Manning and others chided the victim for using his laptop computer as he dined. Drew insisted that, in his circumstance, it was a case of mistaken identity and that he was not party to the incident.
"I never did anything wrong in my life," he said. "[I've] never been in trouble with the law. All I ever did was play football and go to school and help in the community. I didn't get the benefit of the doubt. The media jumped and ran with it. Jacksonville did a background check on me and found nothing wrong."
Manning, signed by the Bears as a restricted free agent this spring, after spending the first three seasons of his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, still faces assault charges. The district attorney said Manning is on probation for similar charges from a prior incident and that, if convicted, could face four years in jail.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.