Chris Rainey emerged from the south end zone tunnel on Tuesday, and before he could even step onto the Florida Field turf, was instantly greeted by a throng of reporters.
The former Florida running back hadn’t been heard from since his January arrest netted him an immediate release from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team that drafted him a year ago.
Rainey was initially handed a misdemeanor simple battery charge after being accused of slapping his girlfriend. The charges were reduced to disorderly conduct — to which Rainey plead no contest — and his girlfriend requested for the charge to be dropped.
Despite the turnout of the case however, the damage had been done. Rainey was no longer a Steeler.
“It was just bad timing,” Rainey said. “Wrong place at a bad time. That’s all it is.”
Rainey — who was in Gainesville to attend a Mayor’s Ball with his girlfriend — said he was uninterested in talking to scouts on Tuesday, leaving any potential talks to his agent.
Mike Tomlin, Rainey’s former coach at Pittsburgh, was in attendance as well on Tuesday, setting up for a potentially awkward run-in (unfortunately I am yet to hear of any encounter between the two).
Pittsburgh was an ideal situation for the enigmatic Rainey, who had two former teammates in Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert alongside him. The Steelers’ organization is as solid as it gets in the NFL, but now Rainey will have to go about finding a new role on a new team.
“I’m just being patient, man, that’s all,” Rainey said. I know free agency is today. I’m just wanting my agent to give me that phone call.”
“Hope I go to a better offense and stuff. That’s all I want. When I get that phone call, it’s just time to work.”
Work is something Rainey will have to put in to make a return to the NFL. With his character again in question, Rainey will have to prove he’s enough of a talent to take a risk on.
As far as Rainey playing in the NFL this season, only time will tell.
“I hope so,” Rainey said when asked if he’ll be in the NFL this season. “I’m praying. You never know.”