Atlanta Falcons make a painful cut in letting wrongly convicted athlete go.
His was the warmest of feel-good story, the sort that makes people glad that justice isn’t totally blind, that America does allow for a wrong to be righted. And Brian Banks, an athlete whose future as a teenager had NFL stamped all on it, had been seriously wronged. He was thrown into prison, his life in tatters, accused of a rape he never committed.
Not all feel-good stories come wrapped in fairy-tale, happily-ever-after endings. In Banks’ case, his surely didn’t. For some reason, he probably won’t complain much, because no matter what else happens in his life, the 27-year-old Banks has a future brighter than he did a handful of years ago.
He had spent five years behind bars, and after he was exonerated in 2012, he was hopeful of resurrecting his football dreams. Several NFL teams brought him in for tryouts, and the Atlanta Falcons were the team that signed him in April, perhaps looking for what might have been talent others had not seen.
Banks wasn’t quite that talent. He did show enough promise to stick with the Falcons throughout much of their preseason, but he didn’t make the team’s cut to 53 players. The Falcons released him Friday along with 11 other players.
His effort to make the Falcons, one of the elite teams in the NFL, looked like the longest of shots from the start.
Seeing him go as far as he did was encouraging; it suggested that he was good enough, despite his greenness, for one of the lesser teams in the league – think Jacksonville, Oakland and Kansas City here — to pick Banks up. Hell, he showed enough that the Falcons might try to hide him on their practice squad.
Who would root against that happening?
What Banks needs is experience – a lot of it. Time, though, isn’t his ally. Because of his wrongful conviction, he has little of it left to show coaches he can play NFL football. For the clock of NFL life isn’t one that ticks away forever; it doesn’t stand still for anybody, regardless of how talented he is.
If his clock has stopped running, Banks shouldn’t care. For he’s better off wearing the label of a failed athlete than he ever was with the tag of “ex-felon.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Dave Martin, file)