Bad moon setting
Former star WR Rison failing in efforts to return to the NFL
Posted: Friday September 3, 2004 2:32PM; Updated: Friday September 3, 2004 2:32PM
Spending time on the phone with Andre [Bad Moon] Rison is like dialing up a raunchy old Lenny Bruce monologue. After a few minutes of ducking for cover, you almost grow immune to the machine gunfire of F-bombs. All you're sure of is Rison is mad as hell.
Mad at the mother [actually the mothers] of his teenage children for hounding him over long past due support payments. Mad at the attorneys and judges casting him as a dead-beat dad.
Mad at what he perceives as the failure to recognize him as "the best receiver ever.'' Mad over the media penchant to cast him as a serial troublemaker.
But, at the moment, what's got him really hot is not being in an NFL camp. At 37, even after not playing since the 2000 season, Rison swears after looking around that he's better than three-quarters of the guys on rosters. "If I was in anybody's camp I'd be in their starting rotation,'' he boasts.
After all, Deion Sanders, another 37-year-old and Rison's former teammate with the Atlanta Falcons, seemed as if he only needed to snap his fingers before landing a part-time cornerback gig in Baltimore.
And yet as the NFL readies to kickoff another season next week, Rison is tucked away north of the border in Canada, pulling down a modest paycheck with the Toronto Argonauts. If he doesn't tweak a hammy before Monday night, he's likely to come off the practice squad for his CFL debut in Hamilton.
Can you say the B-word: blackballed? Damn right, Rison says.
The five-time Pro Bowl receiver says he shipped off a DVD to every NFL front office a couple weeks before the start of training camp. A GM told us it never crossed his desk, which may explain the stone cold silence. But Rison fancies a conspiracy after not receiving a single callback.
"I even went as far as doing the DVD,'' Rison rants. "Getting in shape, running pass patterns and routes, packaging it up to over 100 coaches and front office personnel. And I didn't get one f------ response, but I got over 80 some touchdowns and over 10,000 some yards. And I can't get a f------ call.
"I think I was blackballed. And I think some of it came over bad press and old press and unfair press. If something is in someone's personal life that is his personal life. Don't judge him and use that against his credibility for what he does as an occupation.''
That's the problem. Call it blackballed or what you like, but when you're creeping up in years the NFL talent hounds aren't as eager to overlook a stack of court records and dubious headlines. Stuff over the years like firing a handgun outside an Atlanta nightclub and an argument with his then-girlfriend, the late TLC vocalist Lisa [Left Eye] Lopes, that led her to torch the couple's home.
A few years and several teams ago Rison may still have been bulletproof. Now, as a general manager said of the current lack of interest, "This isn't the Rison of 10 years ago. Why bother? What's your return?''
The guy last suited up in 2000 for the Oakland Raiders, catching 41 passes for 606 yards. He was suspended for four games in 2001 for a repeat violation of the league's substance abuse policy and didn't set foot in another NFL camp until the Tampa Bay Bucs and his old coach, Jon Gruden, worked him out last October. They didn't call him back because he appeared 10 to 15 pounds overweight and his speed was an issue.
Obviously, Rison can talk all he wants about the CFL showing him love now and the goofy notion of the Argos possessing the best receiving corps in all of football, but the fact is he needed to land a job or risk being hauled off to jail. And that still might be his fate if he doesn't pony up some cash.
Rison reportedly owes $90,000 in back child-support to his wife in Michigan and $107,000 to the mother of his two other children in Georgia, where a local court judge has issued a warrant for his arrest. Rison wants all to know he remains close to his kids and claims the money issue has been resolved.
Randy Kessler, attorney for the woman in Georgia, laughed at Rison's claim that he'd paid his client, saying that he remains 2 ˝ years behind on the $3,500-a-month payment. "He says he has a great relationship with his kids, but he hasn't seen or spoken to them in over two years,'' Kessler says. "They're great athletes. If he would send them a pair of tennis shoes that would be something.''
Not surprisingly, Rison says he's done talking about child-support, warrants and all things legal. What he'd rather do is turn the conversation to business and his dream of playing five more seasons, presumably again in the NFL.
The guy who could have been one of the all-time greats is as self-absorbed as ever, believing in his mind that he's better than Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and every receiver who ever snatched a spiral. "I don't think it -- I know it'' he says of his greatness. "Hey, I take nothing away from anybody's accomplishments. But I didn't score not one touchdown, I scored over 80 of those f------. I played with 17, 18 different quarterbacks. That wasn't my designation.''
Anyone casting Rison as delusional when he rambles never saw the guy play. He was among the best, yes. But as for this greatest ever talk -- no, stop it. And Rison can blame only himself for a career cut short and potential never fully tapped.
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.