I’ve been way off in my predictions this season, but here’s one that I’m sure I’ll get right: Some in the national media are going to take shots at Urban Meyer for letting Chris Rainey return to the team this season.
They’ll say that it’s too soon, that all Meyer cares about is winning, that after all the arrests over the past five-plus years Meyer needs to make an example of Rainey and cut him loose, that Meyer is bringing him back because the Gators are desperate after back-to-back losses.
My take on Tuesday’s news is this: Rainey, by all accounts, is a good kid with no history of violence against women (or anyone else); the victim said she did not fear Rainey, nor did she want to pursue charges against him; the case has gone through the judicial system and Rainey has accepted a deferred prosecution agreement that means his record will be clean if he stays out of trouble over the next year; he is going to miss at least five games (almost half his season) over a misdemeanor charge. At any other school, five games would be enough punishment for the same exact offense and outcome.
Given all that, Rainey deserves a second chance.
If he was a bad kid, an attitude problem with a history of messing up and embarrassing his school, then Meyer would have cut him loose. He did that to a player this past summer, booting defensive tackle Gary Brown, a former five-star recruit. But Rainey is in good standing with his coaches and teammates. He’s one of the most-liked players on the team and a guy who has a history of doing things the right way. On the 911 call before his arrest, the victim’s sister even said that Rainey did not drink or take drugs and she just wanted the police to come and calm him down and get him to leave.
In a statement from UF on Tuesday, Rainey accepted responsibility for his actions and apologized to everyone involved.
He’s ready to move forward. And his next step is not going to be onto the football field, playing for the Gators. Rainey is going to have to go through a pretty tough process before he earns the right to play for the Gators again. Some are assuming he will return for the Georgia game in two weeks. I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I remember when defensive tackle Steven Harris missed almost his entire senior season in 2006 when he was given a similar opportunity to work his way back onto the team by Meyer. He eventually earned his way back. Rainey will have the same opportunity.
He deserves a second chance.