If timing really is everything in life, then Chris Rainey may have nothing left.
Which is pretty much what he had as a kid of the streets in Polk County before football found him.
Now, depending on the outcome of the next few days and weeks, he could have even less than nothing – no football, no sympathy and not many friends.
It’s unfortunate enough that he made a mistake, but he made it at a time when some people in authority are fed up with such behavior.
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Some of those who have nurtured and cared for Chris in recent years are left with a broken heart. And that includes the Meyer family, whose company Rainey often kept, swimming in their pool or munching on Shelley’s muffins or playing video games with Nate.
It wasn’t quite the same relationship that Michael Oher had with his adoptive family in “Blindside,” the heartwarming movie about a player in Mississippi who reached stardom in the NFL thanks to Sandra Bullock’s character, but there has always been a special place in the Meyer family for Rainey.
Chris was always one of Urban’s favorite players, although Meyer muzzled Rainey for making statements about “prima donna” members of the 2009 Gator team this summer. Coach and player were very close. In fact, of all the emotional moments Meyer had the day after he resigned in December, none had a bigger influence on the Florida coach’s decision to change his mind than Rainey hugging his neck with a face full of tears.
This was to be Rainey’s breakout year in a new position and the intention was to get him the ball more in space so that he could show off his remarkable speed and skill. But there always seemed to be another hurdle to clear.
Rainey was injured Saturday against South Florida and later it turned out to be concussion, but Meyer said as late as Monday he expected Rainey to play against Tennessee. There is almost no scenario now under which that could happen, which means an inexperienced player will be starting it the slot at Neyland Stadium Saturday before 107,000.
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It’s pretty hard to make Rainey the victim, however, after the reprehensible behavior he exhibited toward his girl friend Monday night, texting the phrase “time to die” and reportedly making verbal threats over the phone.
Having been arrested on a third degree felony for aggravated stalking, Rainey was released after being joined at a court appearance by a member of Meyer’s staff who promised to help supervise his conduct. Charges are still pending, but may never even be filed – and if they are, could very will be dropped.
“I did not want to have him arrested,” said the woman, whose sister reportedly called police. “When the police came, I signed papers to not press any charges. I don’t fear for my safety. … People all over the country have been calling my cell phone. I’m not afraid of him. I’m more afraid of all the repercussions.”
That doesn’t mean Rainey wasn’t wrong in what he did or doesn’t need to be disciplined. Meyer’s code of conduct for players includes “respect for women” and clearly he doesn’t condone such behavior.
I’m still a little puzzled how this is all going to play out if Rainey isn’t even charged, however, let alone found guilty, and on what grounds he would be punished.
If he is suspended, it does raise the question as to what penal code is being used and who is administering it.
Meanwhile, Rainey has been judged guilty by the court of public opinion.
If somebody in a position of power decides to lower the boom on Rainey, then so be it. But it should be clear why it’s being done, because otherwise it brings into play every argument between every spouse or girl friend of a Gator football player that has ever involved a verbal or physical threat, even if the law isn’t involved. And believe me, that would be a considerable number.
First off, Rainey has no prior record and has not been banished from the program. He is simply – and these are the words of Steve Addazio – “not a part of our team.” It doesn’t mean he’s off scholarship or done with football – at least not yet.
Addazio made that one simple statement on Tuesday and neither he or any players or coaches would address the matter in a noon press conference. They took the fifth.
Internal matters such as these are rarely brought to light and until Rainey appears on the field in uniform – or doesn’t appear – we won’t know. Fans and media are still trying to determine whether safety Will Hill finally makes it on the field for the first time following his inexplicable absence in the first two games.
That’s how it works at the University of Florida.
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On the aforementioned matter of timing:
A wide receiver corps that has already been slow in developing suffered yet another blow. Not having Rainey means at least one untested or unproven young player will be thrown into the breach.
Behind him on the depth chart is promising true freshman Robert Clark, who caught his first pass last Saturday. Coaches wouldn’t say how the depth chart breaks out, but there is also a chance Andre Debose will be moved back to the slot after being switched to the “X” spot outside a few weeks ago. But he has been used sparingly in his red-shirt freshman season. Or perhaps Frankie Hammond Jr., who is scheduled to be back from his suspension for DUI and has backed up at all four receiver positions. The other option is to use a different formation.
On paper it doesn’t appear as big a loss as it actually is. The stats for the two games show Rainey with six receptions for 34 yards and four carries for 16. He has returned three punts for 17 yards but after getting injured against South Florida, that duty went over to Janoris Jenkins.
The football deficit isn’t any bigger than the leadership loss and the emotional blunt force trauma. This example of poor judgment casts yet another aspersion on Meyer’s program. The national and out-of-state media, plus the recruiting competitors, will be sure to note that this was the 29th player arrested in the Meyer regime—a fact that has already made its way around the talk show circuit in the SEC.
To Meyer, it’s another body blow – a coach who had so many body blows last season that it brought him to the canvas.
Two games into his sixth season, it has become apparent that as much as Urban has preached good conduct and tries to control the environment of his players, it is nigh an impossible task. And he takes that defeat very personally. After all, it’s not just the player who winds up paying the price.