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Cowboys' Ratliff had high blood-alcohol level at time of crash

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Dallas Cowboys player Jay Ratliff had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit in Texas when his pickup truck hit an 18-wheeler truck on January 22, police said on Monday.

Ratliff, a 31-yar-old nose tackle, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving at the scene of the crash. He was released on $500 bail last Tuesday from the municipal jail in Grapevine, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb.

Police in Grapevine said on Monday that Ratliff's blood-alcohol level was .16, double the state's legal limit of .08.

Ratliff was the second Cowboys player to be arrested in an alcohol-related crash within a little more than a month. Josh Brent, also a nose tackle, was indicted by a Dallas County grand jury on one count of intoxication manslaughter on December 28 stemming from a December 8 crash in Irving, Texas, that killed his friend and Cowboys practice squad member Jerry Brown Jr.

Brent had started for the Cowboys this season because Ratliff was sidelined by injuries.

Grapevine Senior Police Officer Sam Shemwell said Ratliff did not initially appear to be drunk after his Ford F-150 struck the 18-wheeler at about 12:30 a.m. on Texas Highway 114 near the entrance to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But he failed a field sobriety test. Ratliff declined a breath test at the jail so a blood sample was drawn for testing.

Neither Ratliff nor J.R. Wilson, the driver of the 18-wheeler, was injured. Wilson called 911 and reported that the pickup truck had flipped over, according to the 911 recording.

The blood-alcohol report has been sent to the Tarrant County district's office in Fort Worth, Shemwell said.

"Having recently experienced the most tragic of circumstances regarding this issue, we, as an organization, understand the ultimate consequences of driving while impaired," said Calvin Hill, a consultant for player development for the Cowboys. "We know that one incident is too many."

"We have been in communication with Jay Ratliff regarding this incident, and we will monitor the legal process and work within the NFL guidelines for player behavior moving forward," Hill said.

A first offense of driving while intoxicated carries a punishment of up to six months in jail.

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Editing by Greg McCune and Will Dunham)

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