A second chance

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos are hoping Siddeeq Shabazz can perform on the field this season - and avoid any further problems off the field.

In need of help in their secondary and linebacking core, the Green and Gold formally announced Shabazz's signing yesterday.

But his football talents have often been overshadowed by his altercations with the law in the U.S.

Before being drafted by the Oakland Raiders, Shabazz was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and battery in 2001.

"It wasn't as bad as it sounds," said Shabazz from his home in New Mexico yesterday. "It was just a stupid, childish situation that now I have learned from and am way above now."

The charges were eventually dismissed in 2005 when probation was completed.

But last year Shabazz made headlines in New Mexico again for being involved in a police investigation into an alleged assault at a Wal-Mart.

"That was a ridiculous situation that got really blown out of proportion," he explained. "I haven't really talked about it. My lawyer actually said not to really talk about it, but no criminal charges were pressed."

Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia confirms the club did a background check on Shabazz.

"He has learned from his past and we don't feel like it is going to be an issue in the upcoming year," said the coach on his cellphone from Florida.

"He is no different than a lot of guys that are given a second opportunity."

A former star at New Mexico State, Shabazz has bounced around the NFL with five teams, playing 28 regular-season games in the process.

"It has been a crazy route," said the father of two young children. "A couple of times it was numbers. A couple of times it was fit.

"I don't know what happened in Cincinnati, I didn't really get a chance to show them anything.

"In Atlanta, they had a lot of stiff competition (in 2003-04), and I hadn't lived up to my potential yet.

"With the Dolphins - the last team I was with - there were eight safeties there."

At six feet and 205 pounds, the Eskimos could try the 25-year-old native of Germany at halfback or at outside linebacker, a position the club still hasn't filled since Steven Marsh's departure.

"Whatever position I am at, my goal is to be the best in the league," said Shabazz, whose brother, Shukree, played with the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year.

ANOTHER DB: The Esks also announced the signing of 23-year-old import defensive back Ray Williams yesterday. At six-foot-three and 203 pounds, Williams offers intriguing size at cornerback, but switched to the position in his senior year at Purdue after being a wide receiver.

"I love to play receiver, but I like to hit (on defence)," he said from his New Jersey home.

A native of Jamaica, Williams didn't move to the U.S. until he was 15 years old.


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