From yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times and Brad Biggs

Facing a felony assault charge and still on probation for a 2002 assault, Bears CB Ricky Manning (above) struck a no-contest plea with prosecutors Tuesday to avoid a possible prison sentence in exchange for three years of probation. Manning, who also must attend 52 weeks of anger-management classes and do 100 hours of community service, maintained he wasn’t to blame for any injuries Soroush Sabzi may have suffered. ”Hopefully [the league] will be fair,” said Manning, who is subject to a fine or suspension for a violation of the personal conduct code. ”I don’t think I deserve a suspension, a harsh punishment. My story hasn’t changed. I said I walked away, and I’m still saying I wasn’t [involved].”

Manning entered the restaurant in the early hours of April 23 and says he asked Sabzi what he was doing working on a laptop computer.

”He responded to me aggressively,” Manning said. ”He told me to go ‘F’ myself. Come to find out later, the guys that he got into it with [after Manning says he left] were messing with him before I got there.

”So I got in the guy’s face and told him, ‘Don’t talk to me like that,’ and I did push him in the face. That’s the only thing that I did was push him in the head. I left it at that. I walked away from the situation. I thought it was done, and that was it.”

Manning claims that after he left, other patrons brawled with Sabzi, knocking him unconscious. Sabzi’s attorney, Aviv L. Tuchman, said his client tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and suffers from post-concussion syndrome. Sabzi has filed a civil suit against Manning.

”[A jury] can say I conspired with those other guys that beat this guy up and because of my involvement, this guy got beat up,” Manning said. ”I just can’t risk that. I would rather put it all in my hands, be on probation, keep my nose clean. … I have to take anger-management classes when I don’t have an anger problem.

”Hopefully the NFL will be more active in this and not let people just take advantage of their players, because I was accused of something that I didn’t do.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrisey challenges Lovie Smith’s assertion that Manning is a “high character guy.”

On the day it was revealed cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. had asked a man, “Are you a faggot?” before jabbing him in the head, do you know what the Bears were doing?

Publicly admonishing him for his insensitivity? Asking him why he was with a group of people who, according to a Los Angeles County probation report, called the man “gay,” “geeky,” “a [expletive] Jew” and a “faggot?” Voicing displeasure at having someone on their roster who apparently has trouble handling his anger?

They were taking a few media members to task for their criticism of running back Cedric Benson. They were analyzing film of the Bears’ on-field celebration after the Minnesota game to prove Benson had not been sulking, as several newspaper columns had implied. They were summoning at least one reporter to watch the Happy Cedric film to prove their point.