Thursday was amnesty day in college football for fast guys named "Chris," beginning with Florida running back/receiver Chris Rainey, who was officially cleared to play Saturday against Georgia. Rainey's spent the last six weeks in the cold on the heels of a stalking arrest for allegedly threatening his girlfriend via a text message that read "time to die." It was a heinous enough charge to leave arrest-weary Gator fans rolling their eyes when Rainey rejoined the team earlier this month, even as they were suffering through the bumbling of an offense that could really use him.
Michigan State's secondary isn't in such dire straits, but the undefeated Spartans may still welcome back starting cornerback Chris L. Rucker from a two-game absence for a critical visit to Iowa on Saturday – just two days after he walked out of jail and apparently back onto the depth chart Thursday at the end of an eight-day sentence. From the original post by the Detroit News:
East Lansing -- Michigan State senior cornerback Chris L. Rucker has been reinstated to the team by coach Mark Dantonio.
"The poor decision he made had need for serious consequences which he has now met and resolved from a team and legal perspective," Dantonio said Thursday evening, reading a statement before taking questions from reporters. "It does not, however, rise to a lifetime banishment."
Dantonio said Rucker will travel with the team to Iowa. Dantonio added whether the cornerback plays will be Rucker's decision, based on how the player feels.
Rucker was in jail as a repeat offender, following an Oct. 10 drunk-driving arrest that violated his probation on a misdemeanor assault charge last December. He picked that one up for his role in the infamous dorm-room brawl that ultimately sidelined a dozen Spartans for the Alamo Bowl. (You can read details of Rucker's latest arrest here. Routine business, by DUI standards.) At least Dantonio is consistent in his penchant for second chances: Last year, he reinstated running back Glenn Winston immediately following a 180-day jail sentence for seriously injuring an MSU hockey player in an on-campus fight in 2008.
That experiment ended with Winston's permanent dismissal after he was charged in the dorm brawl, for which he was sentenced to another 180 days. Dantonio obviously doesn't think Rucker's third chance is destined to the same fate, according to his statement: “I have known and have watched Chris L. Rucker for four years on the field, in the classroom, in the community and as a team member. The poor decision he made had need for serious consequences, which he has now met and resolved from a team and legal perspective. ... To me, our coaches, and our entire team -- the men in the arena -- it was the right call for the right reasons."
Maybe. Per my standing policy on matters of crime and punishment, that decision is entirely Dantonio's call, is entirely on his shoulders and should be respected, fuzzy definition of "zero tolerance" notwithstanding. Including a bowl, Rucker only has five games remaining in his college career. But jail time of any duration typically means zero games remaining. For Dantonio's sake – and maybe for his health – this seems like one he'd better hope he gets right.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.