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Officers: Coleman flipped car to avoid deer, had been drinking

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) _ Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman swerved to avoid a deer and flipped his luxury vehicle, authorities said Wednesday, finally revealing details of a mysterious wreck last weekend.

Coleman, who needed minor knee surgery and will miss his second straight game, had been drinking but wasn't considered under the influence.

The information emerged during a surreal day of vague responses and testy exchanges between coach Jim Mora and the media.

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.''

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.''

Mora was clearly annoyed when questioned about why the team appeared so reluctant to discuss the accident.

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

Mora glanced down at his watch.

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

Mora finally disclosed 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.

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

Was I there?'' Mora asked.How the hell would I know (what happened)? He doesn't even know.''

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.

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.

``My main concern right away was twofold: Is he OK, and how can we limit distractions between now and the game? It's a big game, and we're trying to win,'' McKay said.

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 information.

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.''

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