Andre the grate

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

It all started with a basic question. Nothing more.

"What are you doing here?" Andre Rison was asked.

"You mean to tell me," he said, beginning a loud and meandering monologue, "that I'm not better than the receiving talent they've got in San Francisco?

"You mean to tell me that I can't play for Kansas City? Hell, anybody can play for Kansas City.

"You mean to tell me that all of us can't go and play for Miami? C'mon, let's be legitimate, let's be real. Can you honestly tell me that I'm not better than everybody on Tampa Bay's receiving roster? I can keep going down the line. I can keep on going if you'd like."

So he does.

"Get the books out. Look up the numbers. I'm up here catching one-hand touchdown passes. I'm getting open, that's what I'm doing up here. Get the film out, get the tape out, I've got a bunch of catches since I've been coming off a couch.

"But nobody wants to mess with me. I've got a Charles Barkley background."

Andre Rison, looking every one of his 37 years in face but not in body, is standing near the parking lot at Erindale College, running routes on every question, answering them in his own time, his own rhythm his own way.

"How did you end up here?" I asked the longtime troubled all-star.

"God set all this up," he answered.

"How's that?"

"I don't know. You've got to get on your knees and ask him."

"God doesn't answer too many of my questions."

"You got to get on your knees for that one, just get on your knee ... But you know, I'm happy. I love it here."

This has been a season of comebacks for two old friends and former Atlanta teammates. Rison coming back to the small world that is the Canadian Football League. Deion Sanders leaving his network job to return to the National Football League.

When asked if Sanders played the game within the game better than did Rison, the Argo of a few months offered up a contradictory response.

"What do you mean, admitting he committed adultery and fornication? Is that what you mean by playing the game better? Him and I are still the best of friends. I wish well for him whatever he does. People were asking me, what can he do coming back? Well, he was 20 times better than everybody when he played so what's the difference between playing now?

"You guys don't make no gripes about old-ass linemen playing the game. You don't make no gripes about how long Clay Matthews played (he probably means Bruce Matthews). You don't make gripes about a lot of people that played. But when an Afro-American plays to a certain extent, you want to push him out because you have a crop of other ones coming in.

'It's a shame the game is played like that. You can play baseball until you're 50. So what's the difference? I think it's a personality thing. It's like, tell me what an SAT is when you don't have the correct schooling. Tell me what it is when you don't have the classes that meet the requirements to pass the SAT.

"Then you put an ACT in. Then put the Proposition 42 in, then you put the Proposition 48 in, tell me who that's geared toward? Then try to go get a commentating job. I'll see if I can kiss somebody's ass and get a commentating job with some network."

The anger is spread thinly from the media to establishment to coaches to the NFL to everyone he perceives has somehow prevented his career from moving forward.

Everyone but himself.

"From the moment I was a rookie, they already said that Jerry Rice was the greatest," Andre Rison said. "So you kill every player who wants to play wide receiver. You kill their dreams right off the bat, as the media. He's not on record saying I'm the greatest. It's the media that said it.

"Who the hell are the media to deprive me of my dream of being the greatest?"


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