Tuesday, September 2, 2008 Updated: September 3, 12:31 PM ET
Jaguars' Collier critical after shooting; ex-teammate Pettway unhurt
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot and critically wounded outside an apartment building early Tuesday as he and a former teammate waited for two women they had met at a nightclub, police said.
Collier, 26, and former Jaguars defensive end Kenneth Pettway were waiting in a Cadillac Escalade when a gunman fired into the vehicle, said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson. Collier was shot several times, but it wasn't clear where he was hit.
Collier was in critical condition at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said early Tuesday. Later, spokesman Chris Turner said the hospital was no longer giving updates on Collier's condition. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Collier's family had requested privacy.
Several Jaguars, including running back Maurice Jones-Drew, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and linebackers Mike Peterson and Clint Ingram, gathered at the hospital. Others convened at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
"The guys are in shock," Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor said. "You see this kind of thing happen all the time on TV, but you never expect it in your own backyard. He's a good dude. I just pray for him and his family and wish the best for them. I'm sure he'll pull through."
Del Rio said the entire organization paused Tuesday, taking a break from game planning for the season opener at Tennessee and focusing on what he called "a very unfortunate incident, really, really a shame."
"Right now, he's battling for his life," Del Rio said on his weekly radio show Tuesday night. "All we can do right now is pray for healing. We have no control over that situation other than saying some prayers."
Del Rio added that the team would "be fine."
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"We're going to play football," he said. "But this is not about football. This is about life. This is about a man right now dealing with his body being put to the test, whether or not he can overcome these types of things. When you're in critical condition in the hospital, it's very, very serious. And that's what this is."
The motive behind the attack was unknown, and the sheriff's office was investigating. Pettway, who was released in final cuts Saturday, was not injured.
The shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. in a middle- to upper middle-class neighborhood just west of downtown Jacksonville and blocks from the St. Johns River. The players had gone to the apartment complex so the women could drop off their car, authorities said.
The women, who appeared to be in their 20s, declined comment when they were escorted by police back to the complex midmorning Tuesday. One was wearing a short, silver dress and the other was wearing a short, black one.
Collier is the third NFL player to be shot in the past 18 months. Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was fatally shot during what police said was a botched burglary attempt at his Miami-area home in November. Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed when his rented limousine was sprayed with bullets minutes after leaving a New Year's party at a club in 2007.
The shooting also was the latest in a long list of off-the-field troubles for the Jaguars. Taylor was charged with disorderly conduct over the weekend. Receiver Matt Jones is facing a felony drug charge in Arkansas. In all, the team has had 11 players arrested in the last two years.
But Del Rio said he disagreed with anyone wanting to lump Collier's shooting in with some of the team's other recent troubles.
"He was out last night, enjoying himself, having a good time, being responsible," the coach said. "I take offense to people that insinuate and call that a lack of discipline or a lack of responsibility. There are no rules about being out on a Monday night before your day off the following day.
"Listen, a person got shot. The guy who shot the gun is the problem, not the guy who got shot. He's the victim. He was victimized. You ought to be able to go out and have a good time and go back home and not be worried about being killed or being put in the hospital with bullet holes.
"I take offense to people who are out there lumping together and trying to make this an issue of team discipline. This is a disciplined football team. This is a big blow, but let's not put the blame on the wrong person or the wrong situation. The person that pulled the trigger is the person that's wrong."
Collier, entering his third season, made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006. He competed for the starting job at left tackle this preseason but was beaten out by Barnes.
Still, the Jaguars believe Collier could be a future starter. They signed him to a contract extension earlier this year despite an arrest last season.
The 6-foot-7, 345-pound linemen was arrested Nov. 3 after officers found him asleep behind the wheel at a McDonald's drive-thru window. Collier failed field sobriety tests and had a blood-alcohol level of .096, according to police. In Florida, it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher.
Collier was suspended two games and fined.
His attorney disputed the police report and recommended that his client go to trial, but Collier didn't want the team to have to deal with the negative attention it would have generated. So he pleaded no contest and accepted six months of probation and a suspension of his driver's license.
Coming out of high school in Shreveport, La., Collier didn't have the grades or test scores to attend most colleges, so he stayed home with his mother and got a job in the produce department at Wal-Mart.
He worked there for two years before deciding to give football another chance. He enrolled at Tyler Junior College in Texas, about 90 miles west of Shreveport. He showed up weighing 390 pounds, having not lifted a weight since high school.
Collier quickly got his grades -- and body -- in shape and worked his way into the starting lineup. He transferred to Valdosta State in 2004 and helped the Blazers win the Division II national championship that season. He earned All-America honors as a senior in 2005, yet still failed to impress many NFL scouts.
The Jaguars were the only team to bring Collier in for a workout before the draft, so signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie was an easy decision. His only other choice, he thought, was to go back to the produce section.
"It took me to lose everything to recognize how much I had," Collier said during his rookie season. "It was a blessing, really. I found out how it would be if I didn't work hard and apply myself."