Testifying in his own defence, Joffrey Reynolds said Kaitlin Ward was angry over his cheating. He said it began when the two were at a private party held by Calgary Stampeders receiver Nik Lewis and continued after Ward had left the bar on the morning last July 12.
Ward has testified that Reynolds broke into her condo and tried to choke and strangle her when she told him to leave.
But Reynolds, 33, who was a running back with the Stampeders, said he had moved back in with Ward. He said she started punching him and screaming when she found him there after coming home from a party.
He testified he had a lot to drink and was asleep as soon as he got to Ward's place.
"I passed out immediately," said Reynolds. "I feel someone hitting me. She was hitting me to wake me up."
Reynolds said Ward did demand that he leave, but relented and told him to sleep on the couch because he had nowhere else to go. But he said she was getting angrier and louder.
"She's agitated. She says I'm a cheater and a liar and she's yelling by now. I had my back turned to her and she hits me in the back and the head," Reynolds told the court.
He said Ward, who is six-foot-five, is a strong woman and he wanted to subdue her to calm her down. Reynolds is five-foot-10.
"She's a tall, athletic woman. I'm kind of on edge. I kind of get her in a bear hug. She's yelling to the point that she's mad and crying."
"I did a kind of manoeuvre where I got a knee in her back and rode her to the ground. I restrained her. I'm trying to calm her down."
Reynolds, who is charged with assault causing bodily harm, common assault and breaking and entering with intent, said he never hurt Ward and just wanted to cool things down so they could discuss their issues in the morning.
"When I did put my hand over her mouth it was after she had hit me," he said. "I wanted her to stop yelling."
Reynolds was denied access to the condo twice that night by a concierge. A police witness has already testified that the player's Cadillac Escalade, with footprints on the hood, was found parked illegally next to a six-metre retaining wall near the condo.
Reynolds testified he didn't think making his way into the home was a big deal. The two had been dating for six years and lived together for four years before the relationship ended in December 2011.
"It's kind of how we dealt with our relationship in the past. It was one of those games when we were mad or drunk," he said.
"We made the situation harder than it had to be."
Ward, 27, testified Thursday that the two were trying to find out if they could salvage their relationship and she allowed him to stay for just a couple of nights after his house was foreclosed on. She said he tackled her when she told him to leave and then assaulted her.
"He's smothering my mouth and choking me. Shoving his chin into my neck," she said. "I was gasping for air at that point."
Reynolds pulled her to her feet by her hair and then knocked her to the floor again, Ward testified.
"He kind of jumped from behind and put his knee into my back and started choking me again."
Prosecutor Hyatt Mograbee challenged Reynolds's account of the evening.
"You were in the bed. You were awake and you confronted her and then you tackled her didn't you?" Mograbee asked.
"That would be incorrect," replied Reynolds.
"You assaulted her. Do you agree or disagree?" Mograbee said.
"Very much disagree," said Reynolds.
The prosecutor suggested Reynolds was still in playing shape when the fight occurred and could easily overpower Ward.
"You're used to having 300-pound men coming after you and you're having trouble restraining this woman?" she asked.
"You're used to being hit. Why didn't you leave?"
Reynolds, who is also charged with kicking Ward in the back of her leg while they were at the bar earlier in the night, said he accidentally stepped on her heel.
The case was adjourned until Feb. 20 after Mograbee expressed concern to Judge Brian Stevenson that Ward was not cross-examined by the defence on Reynolds's version of what happened. Stevenson requested a transcript of the trial and will determine if Ward should be recalled to the witness stand.
Reynolds is from Texas and played college football at the University of Houston.
He played eight years for the Stampeders and was the franchise's all-time leading rusher with 9,213 yards.
He was named a CFL all-star four times and won a Grey Cup championship with the Stampeders in 2008 before his release in 2012.
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