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Dallas Cowboy, ex-Illinois star Josh Brent involved in accident that killed teammate

This phoprovided by Irving Police Department shows Dallas Cowboys' Josh Brent. Brent has been charged with intoxicatimanslaughter after he was

This photo provided by the Irving Police Department shows Dallas Cowboys' Josh Brent. Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter after he was speeding early Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Irving, Texas, and his vehicle hit a curb and flipped, resulting in the death of teammate Jerry Brown. (AP Photo/Irving Police Department)

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Updated: January 10, 2013 6:43AM

Another violent death will leave an NFL team taking the field trying to make sense of a shocking loss for the second straight week.

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent was arrested and charged with manslaughter after a one-car crash that killed Jerry Brown Jr., a linebacker on the Cowboys’ practice squad. Brown, 25, was a passenger in the car driven by Brent, 24. The two players also were teammates at Illinois in 2007-09.

“I am devastated and filled with grief,” Brent said in a statement released to multiple media outlets by agent Peter Schaeffer. “Filled with grief for the loss of my close friend and teammate, Jerry Brown. I am also grief-stricken for his family, friends and all who were blessed enough to have known him.

“I will live with this horrific and tragic loss every day for the rest of my life. My prayers are with his family, our teammates and his friends at this time.”

No one was more saddened and shocked than their former Illini coach, Ron Zook, who had been in touch with Brent last summer and had followed up with Brent’s agent a couple of weeks ago.

‘‘It’s just a tragic thing,’’ Zook told the Sun-Times from Philadelphia, where he was doing television work in connection with the Army-Navy game. ‘‘My heart goes out to Jerry’s family. Josh’s agent said he’d really turned the corner. He was the model kid, leading the quiet life. He was playing [football]. He wasn’t going out. He wasn’t doing all that crazy stuff that young people do sometimes.’’

Brent helped Brown join the Cowboys’ practice squad, and Brown was living with Brent, Zook said.

‘‘Even though Jerry was older, Josh was kind of mentoring him,’’ Zook said. ‘‘He’d taken Jerry in, was trying to get Jerry on the right track. This is just a terrible thing.’’

Dallas players, who will play the Bengals with a heavy heart on Sunday, did not comment after arriving in Cincinnati on Saturday.

Last Sunday, the Chiefs played an emotional game against Carolina. K.C. linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself on Dec. 1 after killing his girlfriend in a murder-suicide.

‘‘Sad news for the Illini #Family today,’’ Illinois coach Tim Beckman said in a tweet. ‘‘Jerry Brown, former Illini and current NFL player has passed away. Keep him in your prayers.’’

Brent’s fast-moving Mercedes-Benz flipped on a state highway service road and skidded an estimated 900 feet at about 2:30 a.m., Irving (Texas) police said, adding that Brent was trying to drag Brown from the burning car when they arrived at the scene. Brent, who suffered minor injuries, faces a second-degree felony charge punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

‘‘We are deeply saddened by the news of this accident and the passing of Jerry Brown,’’ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. ‘‘Our hearts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with the members of Jerry’s family and all of those who knew him and loved him.’’

Brent, who was suspended by Zook in 2009 after a DUI arrest, had been starting in place of the injured Jay Ratliff.

Brent spent 30 days in the Champaign County jail during the summer of 2009 on the DUI charge. After missing spring and summer workouts, he was reinstated and did not miss any games as a result of the arrest.

Running into academic troubles, Brent left Illinois and enrolled at Parkland College early in 2010. Dallas took him in the NFL supplemental draft in July 2010.

‘‘Prayers go out to the family of my former classmate, teammate Former Illini Jerry Brown. RIP. #Illini,’’ Tampa Bay receiver Arrelious Benn, who also played at Illinois in 2007-09, said in a tweet.

‘‘I’m still in shock. I don’t want to believe it R.I.P Jerry Brown,’’ tweeted Chiefs offensive lineman Jeff Allen (Illinois 2008-11), another college teammate.

Contributing: AP

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