Rainey, 26, was a fifth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2012 NFL draft but lasted just one season with the team before being released after an offseason arrest. On Monday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported he was shown the door in Indianapolis for off-field concerns:
Normally it is not outlandish to see a team cut ties with players who reside deep on the depth chart at this time of year, but the circumstances around this transaction in particular, well, flat-out stink.
"It's an in-house deal," coach Chuck Pagano told the Indy Star's Stephen Holder. "That's all I'll say about that."
Red flag No. 1: Days before, Holder noted the coach had nothing but praise for the running back he shares a lengthy history with, dating back to collegiate days:
Red flag No. 2: The running back corps in Indianapolis is very much in shambles. To put it nicely, last year's numbers on the ground were a mess:
There was a door open for Rainey to finally earn legitimate time in a backfield rotation, something he sounded prepared to do even days before his release.
“I can do anything and everything. Wherever they put me, I’m ready for it,” Rainey told Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “I’m one of them play-making guys that make you miss. It just makes you smile because you know what you can do in the middle of the field. So just be ready for it when you’re time comes.”
Then the door was slammed shut and was bolted. Multiple times.
Say Pagano and the coaching staff knew Rainey would never break into the rotation. Fine.
Richardson will get healthy and the cost to bring him to town justifies the lion's share of the totes. Ahmad Bradshaw is a wily veteran who can spell him to great effect. Dan "Boom" Herron oozes potential and did not stick in Cincinnati purely because the team ran out of roster spots.
But none of that changes one simple fact—this is the time of year when staffs hang on to seemingly anybody in order to simply have bodies to soak up work in practice, which in turn keeps starters fresh and healthy.
Final cuts arrive, then the hammer comes down on players such as Rainey.
The downward trend with Rainey is all too real at this juncture. Not counting the arrest that saw him get walking papers from the Steelers, the Florida product has seen his name in headlines for similar issues in the past.
In 2010, as a member of the Gators, he was arrested on a felony stalking charge after allegedly sending violent text messages, although it was later reduced to a misdemeanor. A month before the arrest that got him fired in the Steel City, he was cited for defiant trespassing after signing up for a "self-exclusion" list from casinos.
The NFL has a tendency to look the other way and offer second and third chances to players who have the talent to make a franchise better.
Rainey has that thanks to world-class speed that makes him, at the very least, a valuable commodity on special teams as a returner.
While young, he has yet to show he can make a significant contribution in a normal offense. He has just 26 carries out of the backfield in his career.
Change-of-pace backs in today's NFL are a dime a dozen, especially if they are undersized at 5'9" and 181 pounds and have yet to show durability. Ditto for returners.
There is an outside shot Rainey will get another chance. Injuries crop up in droves in the sweltering heat of the summer. One coach may think he has that "it" factor to guide troubled players.
The clock is ticking, though. Little sand remains in the top portion of the hourglass. As his NFL expiration date approaches, Rainey has a lot of work to do in the personal PR department if he is to get another shot at a final 53-man roster.