The Detroit Lions made the mistake of counting on Jahvid Best to return from the concussion he sustained in October of 2011 to contribute in 2012. While it may have seemed like a decent bet at the time, the effects of the mistake proved devastating. Without the dimension Best brought to the offense, the Lions struggled to maintain any sort of consistency.
The chances of Best ever playing for the Lions again appear slim and even if the chances were better, you can bet the Lions wouldn’t be caught as off guard as they were this year. For that reason we can be sure the Lions will be active in pursuing a player to replace Best’s role in the offense. In fact, Martin Mayhew has already said as much:
"“We need that shifty back that can come in and be a change-of-pace guy and catch passes out of the backfield,” Mayhew said.“A guy that can run routes and get one-on-one and beat a linebacker. That’s what Jahvid gave us, a guy with some juice and some elusiveness.”"
That could happen through the draft or through free agency. One player who could fit the bill is Chris Rainey, who was waived by the Steelers today.
December 9, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey (22) rushes the ball against pursuit by San Diego Chargers linebacker Bront Bird (97) and free safety Eric Weddle (32) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The San Diego Chargers won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Rainey is an inch shorter and a bit lighter than Best but brings the speed factor. He proved himself as one of the fastest players at last year’s combine by running a 4.45 second 40-yard dash. He saw some action carry the ball and catching passes on offense but his biggest contribution as a rookie in 2012 was as a kick returner where he averaged more than five yards more per return than Stefan Logan.
He seems to fit a need and is available. Just one problem, the fact that he’s available.
It’s true that Chris Rainey doesn’t fit the mold of a typical Steelers running back but that isn’t why they’ve decided to go in a different direction. The Steelers waived him after learning he had been arrested for simple battery after an altercation with a woman this morning.
"Witnesses said Rainey and the female accuser were arguing over Rainey’s cellphone and Rainey pulled the woman out of a vehicle that belonged to his roommate and then slapped her in the face with an open hand."
Unfortunately, Rainey has a history of domestic violence going back to his days playing for Urban Meyer at Florida. At one point Meyer dismissed Rainey from the team, although he was able to rejoin the team about a month later.
While Rainey might be a fit on the field, the fit off the field isn’t good. With players like Stephen Tulloch admitting that the arrests and legal issues involving Lions players last offseason serving as a distraction detrimental to their 2012 season, the Lions can’t afford to gamble on Chris Rainey. He might seem like a simple solution to a problem on the surface but the Lions would be wise to keep looking.