Bryant pleads not guilty after Vegas weekend

Six days after being suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy - and five days after being spotted in a Las Vegas nightclub ordering champagne, according to published reports - Antonio Bryant's plea of not guilty to charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest was received Thursday by the San Mateo County District Attorney's office.

Bryant's arraignment on those charges - which stemmed from his Nov. 19 arrest after he was spotted driving his orange Lamborghini more than 100 mph on Bay Area freeway - originally was scheduled for Thursday, but Bryant avoided a court appearance by filing his pleas with the San Mateo County's clerk's office on Wednesday.

Coach Mike Nolan had little to say about the latest development in the saga of Bryant, whom police say showed signs of drunkenness and became verbally combative when the fifth-year receiver was pulled over on Highway 101 in the late hours after San Francisco's 20-14 home victory over the Seattle Seahawks earlier in the day.

"It's all between the player and the league," Nolan said. "So most of the things that go on are confidential, and they don't share any of that with us, other than when the player isn't going to be with you any longer."

Nolan had a bit more to say about reports that Bryant, a day after his suspension was handed down, was sighted ordering Cristal champagne at the OPM nightclub at Caesars Palace on Saturday, according to a column that appeared on Christmas Day in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to the newspaper, Davis also was seen there again the next day on Christmas Eve - the same day the 49ers were playing the Arizona Cardinals in San Francisco.

"Ordering champagne? Is that right?" Nolan said. "Well, I know he goes to Vegas. One of the reasons he goes there is because he doesn't want to go back to Dallas, which is where his place is at. I think he just feels uncomfortable going back there, so I know that he does go there (Las Vegas). Now, the other part, I'm not going to attest to. But I know that, when I've called him a couple of times when I've given him a few days, he'll go there and just relax."

When asked if he had any problem with that, Nolan responded, "No, Vegas is a safe place. I mean, I know that the thoughts that go with Vegas are one way, but not everybody that goes to Vegas does that. If it's just to get away, that's fine."

Bryant, who is banned from the team facility during his suspension, is expected to be at team headquarters Monday for a season-ending physical and checkout, which is allowed according to NFL rules.

He also can take part in minicamps, training camp and preseason games. Since the 49ers are eliminated from playoff contention, Bryant's suspension will extend through the first two games of the 2007 season, and he'll be eligible to play again in Week 3.

Although he also was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Bryant was not charged with driving under the influence of alcohol because he refused to submit to a field sobriety or chemical tests, according to prosecutors. Officers also said they were forced to use leather restraints to put Bryant in their car.

Bryant is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 13. Bryant's jury trial on the charges is scheduled to begin March 5 - three days after the NFL's free-agency period is set to start.

Bryant signed a four-year, $13.9 million deal that included $5.25 million in guaranteed money with the 49ers as an unrestricted free agent in March. He started 13 of San Francisco's 14 games before his suspension, being pulled from the starting lineup by Nolan in Week 14 against Green Bay because he was late for a team meeting the day before that game.

Bryant finished his first season in San Francisco with 40 receptions for 733 yards and three touchdowns. He leads the 49ers in receiving yards and ranks third on the team in receptions behind Frank Gore and Arnaz Battle, and his 18.3-yard average per catch is the best for any NFL receiver with more than 38 receptions.

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