Kerry Collins, the center of attention and rumor when he was quarterback of the Carolina Panthers for 3 1/2 years, wanted a clean slate when he was picked up by the New Orleans Saints last month.
Already, he has soiled it.
Collins, back in Charlotte because the Saints played the Panthers on Sunday at Ericcson Stadium, was arrested early Monday morning and charged with driving while impaired. Collins was released from Mecklenberg County Jail at 4 AM after $1,000 bond was posted.
“Obviously, I made a mistake,” Collins told WBTV in Charlotte as he prepared to board a flight to New Orleans. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. It was bad judgment on my part. Whatever happens, I’m going to have to live with it. That’s the facts. I broke the law.”
Collins has a Nov. 12 court date.
He also will have to answer to the Saints and the NFL for his actions.
“Obviously, I’m very disappointed personally that this happened,” Saints president Bill Kuharich said. “This behavior is unacceptable. ... We certainly will address it.”
Kuharich said Collins, who was rumored to have a drinking problem when he was with the Panthers, will be evaluated by team physician Charles Brown.
Asked about possibly cutting Collins from the roster, Kuharich said, “Now I can’t sit here and tell you what’s going to happen from this day forward. I’m not a knee-jerk person. I want to find out all the information and make judgments in concert with [Coach] Mike Ditka.”
Besides legal penalties, Collins, if convicted, could face a fine of up to $20,000 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Collins had received permission from the Saints to remain in Charlotte while the team flew back to New Orleans after the afternoon game, a 31-17 Panthers victory.
“The last thing I told him was, ‘It’s a very hostile environment down there. Can you handle that?’” Ditka said. “And he said, ‘I’m not going to get into any trouble.’”
Collins then went tot he sunset Club, a private club owned in part by Panthers president Mark Richardson as well as Panthers center Frank Garcia, Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein and friends were at the club as well.
“I was there and surprised to see Kerry there since I had assumed he had gone back with the team,” Richardson said in a statement released through the Panthers’ public relations staff.
Kuharich said Collins told him he was out with Panthers tight end Wesley Walls, who did not speak with reporters on Monday.
“He was with a couple of female acquaintances, went back [to the club], dropped one of them off and was going back to his house and got stopped,” Kuharich said.
Collins was pulled over on South Boulevard in Charlotte after highway patrolman R.A. Benge noticed he was weaving on the road. Collins refused a Breathalyzer test, but the officer wrote in his report that Collins had a “very strong odor [of] alcohol, red and glassy eyes, slurred speech” and was “unsteady on his feet.”
Because of his refusal to take the test, Collins will lose his driver’s license for at least 30 days and possibly for a year.
Also arrested with Collins was Michele Moore, 27, of Fuquay-Varina, who owns the 1995 Lexus that Collins was driving. Moore was charged with aiding and abetting driving while impaired. Moore could not be reached for comment.
Beuerlein learned of the arrest on Monday morning.
“I didn’t believe it,” Beuerlein said of his reaction. “I said, ‘No way, no way. This cannot be happening.’
“Just from Kerry’s standpoint, that’s what I was thinking. I just feel really bad that he’s in the situation, I really do. He obviously got himself into a situation he wishes he didn’t. "Bottom line.”
Considered the Panthers’ franchise quarterback after he was drafted in the first round in 1995, Collins led the team to the NFC Championship game in 1996. A year later, he angered teammates with a racial slur during training camp. He struggled that season, and the Panther opted not to pay a $6 million bonus to keep him under contract another three seasons.
After signing a one-year deal for $1.153 million before the 1998 season, Collins led the Panthers to an 0-4 start. Then he walked into Coach Dom Capers’s office and allegedly said his “heart wasn’t into” leading the Panthers anymore. Collins was waived a week later and claimed by the Saints.
In his first return to Ericsson, Collins was jeered by Panthers fans throughout Sunday’s game although he didn’t play.
“I don’t think he’s bad kid,” Ditka said. “I do think maybe he’s lost right now. I say that because he obviously doesn’t understand what’s best for his career or what’s best for the Saints.”