Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey hopes to take advantage of his third chance to stick with an NFL franchise after the Arizona Cardinals signed the much-maligned rusher and returner to their practice squad on Tuesday.
Rainey arrived in Arizona on Saturday, believing he had an opportunity to get signed to the roster after the Cardinals’ first game. Instead, the team was forced to replace their starting punter, who suffered a groin injury, and signed Drew Butler one day before its season-opener on Monday night.
After the game, Rainey learned that Arizona still wanted to bring him in to an open position on their practice squad. He was just happy for the opportunity.
“I really didn’t care. I didn’t care if they put me on the active roster or the practice squad. ‘As long as I’m here,’ that’s what I told them. I just wanted to be here,” he said in a phone conversation with OnlyGators.com on Tuesday night. “They wanted me, so I came back, and now I’m here.”
Rainey credits some of his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, which Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians – a Steelers position coach and offensive coordinator from 2001-06 – brought with him to Arizona, for convincing the coach to give him another chance.
“[It was] a little bit of my agent, a little bit of the players I played with in Pittsburgh. Coach told me what he talked about with them, and they told him I’m a good person, a good player,” he said.
“I ain’t no bad guy like people think I am, like they hear when they see this stuff online – it makes it seem like you’re worse than you are.”
Rainey, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the No. 159 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft but cut by the franchise on Jan. 10, 2013, after he was arrested on a battery charge that was later dropped, got his second opportunity to solidify an NFL career when the Indianapolis Colts signed him in the middle of the 2013 season.
Rainey was inactive for his first week (Week 12) before totaling 160 all-purpose yards on eight returns (four kickoff, four punt) the following two weeks. His season quickly ended, however, when he broke his leg and was placed on injured reserve.
Just days after being hyped up by Chuck Pagano as a player whose career the Indianapolis head coach had been following since high school, Rainey was cut by the Colts on July 28 for an off-field violation of team rules. Pagano never addressed Rainey’s dismissal, but it was later reported by a number of news outlets that Rainey had used a fire extinguisher in the hallway of a team hotel.
Rainey contended on Twitter – during a preseason game – that he was one of many players horsing around that evening. On Tuesday night, he discussed the situation for the first time during his conversation with OnlyGators.com
“I did what a normal young person would do with a group of other guys, just like if you’re in college or outside of college, horsing around and having fun with your teammates, making each other laugh and doing pranks. I wasn’t by myself. We were horsing around in the hallways and stuff, having fun, no one was in their rooms because no one wanted to go to sleep early,” he explained.
“We were having fun, and when [the fire extinguisher was released], a fire alarm went off so everyone scattered. I went outside and saw a bunch of players smoking cigars, so I went to go sit with them like nothing happened.
“The fire alarm kept going on and then we saw the fire trucks come. They said they had to check and make sure there wasn’t a fire going on. When they heard the fire truck, the veterans started panicking. They where like, ‘What’s the heck going on.’ So, one of them went to check to see what happened, and he heard a rookie got sprayed with the fire extinguisher in the hallways.
“They wanted to find out who did it. So, all the veterans got together and were going to knock on everyone’s door, bring everybody outside so someone could man up. So, I stopped them from doing that. I just said, ‘No, I did it,’ and that was that.
“No one knows that part. They were going to knock on everyone’s door and bring them outside, that would have taken it too far, so I said, ‘I can’t let it go that far.’”
With the experience in Indianapolis behind him, Rainey is now focused both on his new team in Arizona and figuring out a way to watch Florida football on Saturdays.
He missed the first game – like other Gators fans did – after weather suspended and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the contest. During the second game, he was preparing to make the most of his opportunity with the Cardinals.
“I ain’t get the chance to see the game because I was working out and flying and stuff. I have not seen one college game yet – and none for Florida – because last week’s game got rained out. I will be watching the Gators this Saturday though,” he said.
Rainey also had not heard what his former teammate, redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose, did in the return game on Saturday. He was pleased but not surprised when he learned that Debose was able to showcase his athleticism and freakish ability.
“He’s going somewhere, I already know that,” Rainey said of Debose.
“Freshmen, when they come in, you got to put them into reality a little bit. They come from high school hype and think they’re the man, and stuff like that. You got a lot of freshmen doing that kind of stuff, and he was like that when he first came in. We had to tell him, ‘Hey, you can’t be doing that, because the NFL watches everything.’
“He grew up and is now becoming a man. You see he’s doing everything he can now so he can help Florida and make it to the next level. At one point in time, he was a lazy person, but not no more.”
Just as Debose is hoping to make a statement in Florida, Rainey hopes to do the same in Arizona and find his way onto the active roster this season. Through the ups and downs of the last three months, he has managed to keep his sense of humor and his mind right ahead of his latest break.
I guess NFL tryin to tell me how to use something proper , the commercial with Drew Brees and the fire extinguisher. I get it, my bad geezs!
— Chris Rainey (@crainey3) August 28, 2014
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers