COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -Cincinnati Bengals linebacker A.J. Nicholson pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge that he struck his girlfriend. She insists she accidentally hit herself with a cell phone, and police misread what happened.
Nicholson was charged with misdemeanor assault Friday, and despite his girlfriend's claim the case will go forward. He remains free on $5,000 bond and a pretrial hearing was set for May 31.
Outside court, Victoria Johnson said Nicholson never hit her. She says she got a mark under her eye when she grabbed a cell phone from Nicholson so hard she struck herself with the phone.
``I was very emotional and I was mad at A.J.,'' Johnson said. ``Like a lot of other couples, we had been arguing. But I am to blame here. I exaggerated the situation. The police officer misinterpreted my upset and emotional demeanor.''
Nicholson's arrest was the first of a Bengals player since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cracked down on misconduct last month. He already was one of nine Bengals players arrested during a nine-month span.
Nicholson, a fifth-round draft pick from Florida State in 2006, appeared in only two games last season, when he had a hamstring injury.

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