Former Illini charged after Dallas teammate dies in accident


Former Illini charged after Dallas teammate dies in accident

IRVING, Texas (AP) Police charged Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent with intoxication manslaughter Saturday after he flipped his car in a pre-dawn accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown.

Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz said the accident happened about 2:20 a.m. Saturday in the Dallas suburb, hours before Brent was to be on a team flight to Cincinnati for the Cowboys' game Sunday against the Bengals.

Argumaniz said the 25-year-old Brown a practice-squad linebacker who also was Brent's teammate for three seasons at the University of Illinois was found unresponsive at the scene and pronounced dead at a hospital.

It marked the second straight week the NFL found itself dealing with a tragedy right before gameday.

Last Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before killing himself in front of his coach and general manager. The 25-year-old Belcher shot himself in the parking lot at the team's practice complex at Arrowhead Stadium.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of this accident and the passing of Jerry Brown," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "At this time, our hearts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with the members of Jerry's family and all of those who knew him and loved him."

Officers conducted a field sobriety test on Brent and arrested him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, Argumaniz said. The charge, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison, was upgraded after Brown was pronounced dead.

Argumaniz said Brent, who pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge three years ago at Illinois, was being held without bond. Brent is named as Joshua Price-Brent in the police news release. Argumaniz said Brent missed a 10 a.m. Saturday booking session with a judge because he was intoxicated. He did not know if Brent had an attorney.

Brent was speeding when the vehicle hit a curb and flipped at least once, Argumaniz said. Police received 911 calls from motorists who saw the upside-down vehicle but they did not immediately have any eyewitnesses to the wreck, the police spokesman said.

Argumaniz said when officers arrived at the scene on a state highway service road, Brent was dragging Brown from the vehicle, a Mercedes, which was on fire. Officers quickly put out the small blaze, he said.

Argumaniz said it wasn't known how fast the vehicle was traveling. The road has a 45 mph limit.

"I can say investigators are certain they were traveling well above the posted speed limit," Argumaniz said.

Before he was taken to the jail, Brent went to a hospital for a blood draw for alcohol testing and also received treatment for some minor scrapes.

Argumaniz said Brent identified himself to officers as a Cowboys player.

Cowboys players were aware of the accident Saturday morning, and coach Jason Garrett told the team about Brown's death on the plane about 1:15 p.m. after asking other personnel to step off the aircraft, team spokesman Rich Dalrymple said.

The flight was "quiet, more than normal," Dalrymple said.

Former Illinois coach Ron Zook said Brent, a third-year player who made the first start of his career in the opener against the New York Giants, was trying to help Brown make it in the NFL. Brown joined the Cowboys in October after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts.

"It was Jerry's dream, and Josh was trying to help him any way he could," Zook said.

Zook said he spoke with Brent's agent, Peter Schaffer, who said he had made contact with Brent.

"He said Josh was distraught, and he didn't care about himself or what was happening to him," Zook said. "All he cared about was Jerry's family."

Brent was arrested in February 2009 near the Illinois campus for driving under the influence, driving on a suspended license and speeding, according to Champaign County, Ill., court records.

In June 2009, Brent pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a fine of about 2,000. As part of his plea deal, prosecutors dropped one count of aggravated DUIno valid driver's license. Brent successfully completed his probation in July 2011, court records show.

Brent, a nose guard, has played in all 12 games this season and played a bigger role than expected with starter Jay Ratliff battling injuries. He has 35 tackles and 1 12 sacks and might have started Sunday against the Bengals because Ratliff is out with a groin injury.

The Cowboys signed Brown to their practice squad Oct. 24, but he hasn't been on the active roster. He was released from the Colts' practice squad Oct. 20. Brown played in one game for the Colts, a loss to the New York Jets on Oct. 14.

"On behalf of the entire Colts family, our sincerest condolences go out to Jerry's family and friends," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement. "He was a good teammate that was well liked by all. Today's tragic news is just another reminder of how fragile life is and how everyday given is a gift."

Brent and Brown played at Illinois from 2007 to 2009. Brent played as a freshman and finished his career with 71 tackles and five sacks. Shortly after his guilty plea on the DUI charge, Brent entered the supplemental draft with a year of eligibility remaining, and the Cowboys took him in the seventh round.

Brown, who took a redshirt season at Illinois the year before Brent arrived, had 13 tackles combined in 2007 and 2008 but didn't play in 2009.

"I can't believe it," Travon Bellamy, a former Illinois teammate, wrote on Twitter. "Before people pass judgment on Josh, they need to know that he is a good person that made a bad mistake."

Brown played for San Antonio in the Arena Football League this year. In 2011, he played for Jacksonville in the AFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.

He was born and grew up in St. Louis, attending Vashon High School.

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.