Sutherland issues statement; team is tight-lipped

Vinny Sutherland was present at 49ers headquarters Wednesday morning for team meetings, but that's the last anybody is likely to see of him at the team's three-day minicamp for rookies and selected veterans. Coach Steve Mariucci excused Sutherland from practice "while we sort things out." The coach, of course, was referring to the second-year veteran's recent brush with the law.


Sutherland, the Niners' kick and punt returner last season as well as a reserve receiver, was arrested early Saturday morning after he allegedly crashed a Toyota sports-utility vehicle into a lamppost and trees in the San Jose suburb of Saratoga. He faces drunken-driving and felony hit-and-run charges stemming from accident.


Mariucci and Niners general manager Terry Donahue each had concise comments regarding the issue. Sutherland did not speak with reporters before leaving the team complex, but he did release a written statement regarding his accident and arrest.


"Let me just address this real quick," Mariucci said. "We are not at liberty to discuss the issue at all. In terms of discussing any of it, we're not going to do that at this time."


Said Donahue, "We really, right now, are simply assessing the situation. We're still evaluating a lot of different things in regards to the entire incident. I'm not trying to be difficult. I've been instructed very clearly about (not commenting at this time)."


In his 89-word written statement, Sutherland said: "I want to apologize to my family, the 49ers organization, my teammates and the Bay Area community for the mistakes I have made. I am truly thankful that no one was seriously injured. I recognize that I have had some problems and will take every step necessary to rectify those problems. I will continue to cooperate with all the authorities involved with this accident. On the advice of my attorney, we need to allow the legal process to run its course so I cannot comment any further than that."


Sutherland, 24, already was wanted for violating probation in San Mateo County because he failed to sign up for a "first-offender" alcohol program after police cited him with driving under the influence last September, just days after he was signed by the 49ers. According to Department of Motor Vehicle records, Sutherland's driver's license had been suspended since October. He also was arrested in 2000 on suspicion of public intoxication and disorderly conduct at a bar near Purdue University, where Sutherland starred in college.


Niners rookies Kevin Curtis – one of the team's two fourth-round picks in the April draft – and Josh Shaw – one of the team's two fifth-round picks – were passengers in Sutherland's vehicle.


Shaw required medical attention for an arm laceration after the accident, but he showed no visible effects of the injury at camp Wednesday. Shaw is not participating in practices this week as he continues to rehabilitate his right knee that he severely injured in college last season. Curtis refused medical attention at the scene and practiced with the team Wednesday. None of the three 49ers were seriously injured in the accident.


Donahue said the Niners had not yet determined any disciplinary measures regarding the issue. "We have not put into place at this time anything like that," he said.


When asked how he approached the subject with his team, Mariucci said, "Obviously, the team is very well aware of it. They know what happened, they are always going to be very conscious of trying to avoid those situations. Obviously, we are all very thankful that nobody was seriously hurt. That is the main thing. Right now, we're letting the authorities deal with it and we're going to let it run its course here. And as we sort through it, we'll know more about it, we'll learn more about it as we go and maybe we can discuss more of it later. But at this point in time, really we are not at liberty to discuss any of it."


When asked about Sutherland's job security and his previous brushes with the law, Mariucci said, "Again, I'm not going to discuss any more of this. Please ask me something else."


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