A contrite Kerry Collins apologized Tuesday for driving drunk in North Carolina and said it won't happen again.
"I take full responsibilty, This is a serious offense and it should not be taken lightly," the newest New Orleans Saints quarterback said at a news conference. He was reading from a prepared statement.
"This is my first offense," said Collins. It will be my only offense ... I realize I'm at a critical junction in my career. Therefore, I'm going to rededicate myself to football."
Collins' arrest early Monday was just the latest distraction for the Saints, a team suffering both on and off the field. On the field, they have gone from 3-0 to 4-4, Their offense is ranked 23rd in the NFL and the likes of the Vikings, 49ers, Dolphins, Cowboys and Falcons lie ahead. Off the field, distractions have included a training camp hazing incident and various players' brushes with the law.
"We've had a lot of off-field problems, and in our situation - not one of the elite teams -- we cannot afford to have those problems interfere with our football," Saints cornerback Tyronne Drakeford said. "It's a big distraction for us, but somehow we've got to find a way to get around it and focus on what's going on on the field."
Collins was arrested in North Carolina and charged with drunken driving early Monday, hours after the Panthers, his former team, beat the Saints. Collins never got into the game, watching from the sideline while the Carolina fans booed and jeered him.
Collins was given permission to stay in his old hometown when the Saints left.
"The last thing I told him was, `It's a very hostile environment down there. Can you hndle that?'" a weary Mike Ditka said Monday. "And he said, `I'm not going to get into any trouble."'
| Kerry Collins walks off the field after the Saints lost to the Panthers Sunday. Later, the former Carolina quarterback was arrested for drunk driving. (AP) |
Collins has gotten into plenty of trouble since the Panthers made him their first pick in 1995. He was called a boozer, a racist and finally a quitter after he reportedly told Carolina coach Dom Capers his heart was not in the game.
The Panthers cut Collins after that, and the Saints claimed him off waivers.
Collins' arrest is another in a string of embarrassing incidents Ditka has had to deal with since last season.
The Saints are being sued because of a hazing incident at training camp that injured three players, fourth-round draft pick Julian Pittman is in jail in Florida for parole violations, wide receiver Keith Poole is charged with assaulting a man with a golf club, players Joe Johnson, Eric Guliford and Keno Hills have had scraps with the law and former player Andre Royal was arrested while celebrating a contract with the Saints.
"Our goal is to get better players and be a better team," Ditka said. "Sometimes better players aren't better people."
Saints general manager Bill Kuharich called Collins' behavior disappointing and unacceptable, but said the Saints support him and will not rush to judgment.
Kuharich said he did not know if Collins' arrest was symptomatic of a drinking problem.
"I'm not a doctor and that's the next step, to have our team physician get him an evaluation to answer that question," Kuharich said.
Still, with journeyman Billy Joe Tolliver as the starter, Danny Wuerffel as the other backup and Heath Shuler and Billy Joe Hobert limping from serious injuries, Ditka admitted he is not about to pull the plug on Collins immediately.
"He's such a talent I'll probably go a little further with him than I normally would," Ditka said.
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