By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Rainey understands what many people will think when they read this story. And he wants them to know they can't bring him down.
"All I can do is move forward and just stay positive from here," he said Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I know what people read. They don't know me. So the people who know me, they know me. I can't do nothing about it."
Except prove perception is not reality, of course. And the Indianapolis Colts are counting on Rainey to do just that.
The former University of Florida star was arrested in January and charged with simple battery against his girlfriend in Gainesville, Fla. The running back denied hitting the woman at the crime scene, and the charges later were dropped.
But the damage already had been done. He was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected him in the fifth round of last year's NFL draft, and remained a free agent for the next 11 months.
On Wednesday, the Colts threw Rainey a lifeline — signing him to the active roster to fill the spot vacated this week by suspended outside linebacker Erik Walden.
"Chris' history is well-documented," head coach Chuck Pagano said during his afternoon news conference. "We did our due diligence on Chris. We brought Chris in (Tuesday). We worked him out. We sat him down, spent a lot of time with him, obviously. He understands what the expectations are. We feel like he's learned from his mistakes, and they're behind him.
"Again, he understands the opportunity that's been given to him. He understands what it means to wear the horseshoe, and we fully expect Chris to take advantage of this opportunity."
There's ample reason to believe in Rainey on the field.
He was timed at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard draft at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he proved he could make an impact as a rookie. Rainey averaged 26.5 yards per kickoff return for the Steelers, and carried the ball 26 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns as a third-down back.
He also made 14 receptions for 60 yards and returned three punts for 16 yards.
But Pagano was non-committal about Rainey's role as Indianapolis (7-3) prepares for Sunday's game at Arizona (6-4). He said the running back has shown "he's more than capable" in the return game but isn't ready to commit a roster spot to Rainey beyond this week.
"Time will tell," Pagano said.
Rainey said he was close to signing with the Canadian Football League but was told he'd have to make a two-year commitment. So he trusted his agent and waited for another shot in the NFL.
In the interim, he worked out regularly and watched pro football on television until he couldn't take it anymore.
He said he's been humbled by his mistakes and is ready to take whatever role the Colts are willing to give him.
"It's just the same expectations from anybody," Rainey said. "Just come in here, go to work, do your job. The past is the past, leave it there and just move on."