<
>

Coleman reportedly swerved to avoid a deer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman swerved to avoid a deer and flipped his luxury vehicle, authorities said Wednesday. The player had been drinking but wasn't considered under the influence.

Details of Coleman's mysterious wreck, which will cause him to
miss his second straight game this weekend, finally emerged after
the team provided little insight earlier in the day.

Hall County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Strickland, citing an accident
report, said Coleman wrecked at 4:30 a.m. Saturday.

"It says the driver stated, 'A deer ran in front of me, I tried
to avoid the collision and I overturned,' " Strickland said. "It
was checked that he did not receive a blood test for alcohol or
drugs. It did indicate he had been drinking, but was not impaired."

Coleman walked to a nearby fire station or residence, where
someone reported the accident. When an officer arrived at the
scene, he gave Coleman a series of field sobriety tests, "which he
passed. The officer indicated that he did not feel [the player] was
impaired."

The Falcons have not set a timetable for Coleman's return but sources close to the sixth-year veteran told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli that he probably will miss three or four weeks.

Coach Jim Mora did reveal that Coleman underwent arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday after damaging the medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He also has a bruised shoulder.

During a brief appearance in front of his locker, Coleman spoke
about the wreck for the first time Wednesday.

"It's just something that happened, man," he said. "It's no big deal."

How did it happen? "It was a one-car accident."

Did it happen in the morning or the evening? "It happened
Saturday."

The NFL said Coleman wouldn't face disciplinary action because
he wasn't charged. But the team may take action for the early
morning wreck.

"I'm sure discipline will be considered," general manager Rich
McKay said. "I'm under the impression Rod has been forthright from
the start."

Coach Jim Mora was testy when questioned about the wreck.

"No one's been secretive," Mora insisted. "We're not
obligated to speak to the media about injuries until Wednesday
after practice."

He glanced down at his watch.

"It's Wednesday after practice," Mora continued. "We're
addressing injuries."

That was about it as far as actual details from the team.

Mora was in no mood to discuss details of the accident,
insisting he didn't know what happened.

"Was I there?" he said. "How the hell would I know? He
doesn't even know."

The first inkling of trouble came late Saturday morning, when
the Falcons (5-1) added Coleman to their injury report. He was
listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. No mention was made
of the wreck or his knee.

Coleman was one of Atlanta's major free-agent acquisitions
during the offseason, receiving a $10 million signing bonus. Before
the wreck, he was tied for second with on the team with four sacks.

Coleman wasn't at the Georgia Dome for a 21-20 victory over San
Diego, and the team wouldn't discuss his absence until after the
game.

Mora said Coleman showed up at the team's practice facility
about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. He was still bleeding and his shoulder
and knee were "banged up."

According to the coach, the wreck occurred "on one of those
country roads" near the facility, which is about 45 miles north of
Atlanta.

Coleman would only say that he crashed his Escalade truck into
someone's yard and had to call a tow truck to take it away.

"I couldn't drive it home," he said.

Coleman said he didn't call the police.

"I just called my insurance [company] and told them to come
pick up my truck," he said.

Another defensive lineman, Ed Jasper, was the first to reveal
that Coleman swerved off the road to avoid hitting a deer.

"I'm just glad he's all right," Jasper said. "I told him,
'Next time, just hit that deer and bring the meat to me.' "

When asked whether a deer was involved, Coleman reverted to his
old standby: "It was a one-car accident."

Mora said he spoke Tuesday with the owner of the property where
the wreck occurred but didn't learn any new details.

The Falcons aren't sure how long Coleman will be out, though he
said it shouldn't be very long. He will definitely miss Sunday's
game at Kansas City.

"It's nothing serious," Coleman said. "I'll just let the
doctors take care of it, do my treatment and hurry to get back on
the field."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.