GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Chris Rainey is getting a second chance at Florida.
Coach Urban Meyer partially reinstated Rainey on Tuesday, a month after the junior was suspended following his arrest on an aggravated stalking charge.
Rainey still has some work to do to get back on the field, but there's no question the 22nd-ranked Gators could use the speedy receiver after two straight losses.
"Chris is a great athlete, great speed, playmaker, explosive guy," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said Tuesday. "You guys all know that, you've seen that, that's documented."
One of Florida's more dynamic players, Rainey was arrested Sept. 14 and charged with a third-degree felony for allegedly sending his former girlfriend a threatening text message that read, in part, "Time to die ..."
Meyer dismissed him from the team the next day, saying Rainey violated the program's core value regarding violence against women.
Rainey agreed to a plea deal two weeks ago on a misdemeanor charge. He agreed to perform 10 hours of community service and undergo evaluation and any required counseling for anger management and domestic violence issues. The State Attorney's Office said Rainey has completed the community service.
If Rainey fulfills all the requirements and stays out of trouble for six months, the charge will be dismissed.
His return to the field is less concrete.
Meyer said Rainey won't play Saturday night against Mississippi State but left open the possibility that he could be back on the field against Georgia on Oct. 30.
"Chris Rainey is working towards being part of our football team again," Meyer said in a statement. "I'm disappointed that he violated a core value of our program, but he continues to pay a price for his actions. Chris will have to meet a set of conditions to become a part of our team again, and although he is practicing, he will not play this weekend. The timetable for his return will depend on his ability to follow the guidelines we have laid out for him."
Rainey apologized in a statement Tuesday, saying he "spent the last several weeks reflecting on my actions and realized that is not who I want to be."
Meyer's decision opened the door for criticism.
Rainey's arrest was the 30th — involving 27 players — in Meyer's six seasons. Meyer, who has won two national championships in Gainesville, has scoffed at the notion he's running a "dirty program."
Florida (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) is a struggling team right now, coming off a 33-29 home loss to LSU and has dropped back-to-back games for the second time under Meyer.
Offense has been the biggest problem in the two losses, with the Gators failing to reach 100 yards rushing in each game, committing six turnovers, allowing four sacks and struggling in the red zone.
Although Rainey did little in his two games this season — he has six receptions and a touchdown — he was a significant contributor the last two seasons. He ran for 1,227 yards and nine touchdowns the last two years and caught 13 passes for 198 yards and a score.
"I'm hoping he comes back as soon as possible," fellow receiver Andre Debose said. "Rainey is a big play waiting to happen. Just having him on the field is always a threat. (Defenses) always have to account for No. 3, so it'll be great for him to come back. We need somebody."
Addazio said he hasn't given much thought to Rainey's potential return, saying it's too early to expect anything from him until he gets fully reinstated.
"He's got some stipulations that he's working back through," Addazio said. "All of that's being handled internally right now. He's not there yet."
Florida's coaching staff didn't announce Rainey's return to the team. Players showed up for meetings Sunday and were surprised to see Rainey there.
"The first time I saw him, he was just sitting with his arms crossed in the hallway and just looking at me and smiling the whole time," running back Emmanuel Moody said. "He was like, 'I'm back man.'"
Moody defended Rainey, saying those close to the player have a different perspective.
"He's not some guy who brings negative energy. He's not that type of guy. So seeing Chris back, we love him. We're happy he's back on the team," Moody said. "He's told me that he's learned a lot from this situation. He's become a better man and he's starting to grow up from it."