Manning Pleads Not Guilty

Chicago Bears Cornerback Ricky Manning pleaded not guilty Friday to an assault charge stemming from an incident last month in which he was allegedly part of a group that attacked a man at a restaurant.

A June 16th hearing has been set to determine whether or not there is enough evidence for Manning to stand trial on a charge of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.

Manning's former UCLA teammates Maurice Drew and Tyler Ebell are also accused of being part of the group that beat a man unconscious on April 23rd at a Denny's near the UCLA campus.

The group then left the scene and were pulled over in Manning's SUV shortly thereafter. All three were released on $30,000 bail.

"When things are squared out I'll be more than happy to talk about it and tell my side of the story so you can find out what really happened," Manning said after the Carolina Panthers declined to match the Bears five-year deal worth $21 million for the restricted free agent.

Although the three-year veteran's record has been clean since joining the NFL, during his time at UCLA he was charged with assault in 2002. He remains on probation from the incident until Dec. 15 of this year. Manning faces up to four years in prison if convicted. He's also subject to a possible suspension or fines from the league for violating the personal-conduct policy.

The five-foot-8, 185-pounder is expected to be the team's third corner behind starters Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman. In 48 career regular season games, including 26 starts, Manning has nine interceptions to go with four more in the postseason.

The Bears have defended Manning at every opportunity and remain confident he will be in uniform when the season starts.

"The information that we got we feel very solid about," said general manager Jerry Angelo. "It's unfortunate. But we feel, let that run its course. In the end, everything should work out well."

In Line for a Promotion
Bobby DePaul, the Bears director of pro personnel, is rumored to be one of several candidates for the Texans GM job left vacant by Charley Casserly's departure.

However, DePaul hasn't been contacted yet, nor have the Bears been asked for permission to speak with him. DePaul isn't considered the top candidate. The Texans have already interviewed Broncos assistant GM Rick Smith and Packers director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie.

DePaul is in his sixth season with the Bears, having been hired by Jerry Angelo a week after he became the Bears GM. Prior to that, DePaul spent four years in the Eagles' personnel department and eight years as an assistant coach in the NFL.

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