Second-chance justice

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Argonauts appreciate players with an edge.

Problem is, players with that extra edge sometimes come with corresponding baggage. Often, it's a bit like love and marriage.

So should the Argos really be surprised that Robert Baker slugged kicker Noel Prefontaine in a brief punch-up during a game in Calgary this past Friday?

Nope.

Baker was one of four Auburn football players involved in a cocaine ring in college. He was sentenced to 15 years, but served a fraction of that.

Now, it has been 10 years since Baker made his mistake and he has not re-offended. But he got into a fight at practice last year and it would not be a stretch to say that the thin edge between controlled fury and fury is pretty thin with Robert Baker.

The Argos, as an organization, are enamoured with second chances, and we don't just mean with stadium proposals.

They had one for Bernard Williams, who flunked the NFL substance abuse program with repeated marijuana violations and never returned to the league.

They had one for former linebacker Calvin Tiggle, for whom the Argos arranged a minister's permit to allow him to play in Canada despite previous criminal convictions in the U.S.

They had one for Derek Medler, whose was sentenced to 18-months for accessory after the fact to attempted murder. Medler, formerly a running back at Laurier, didn't make the team.

And they extended a chance to receiver Andre Rison, who was jailed this winter for failure to pay child support.

The Argos are becoming the CFL team of last resort, the place where you go to restart your career and hopefully, outrun your mistakes.

And you know what? That's fine. I'm a big fan of second chances. I've taken advantage of a few of them myself.

There is, of course, something other than altruism at play with the Argonauts.

Baker has a well-developed sense of aggression that serves him superbly on the football field. Williams has an NFL build and easily can divert pass rushers intent on preying on quarterback Damon Allen from the blind side. The Argos were convinced, for reasons I have not yet grasped, that Rison could help.

Like a goalie who emboldens his forwards, Argos coach Michael Clemons allows the team to step on thin ice.

Clemons is a godly man with a penchant for doing the right thing. You can see his intentions from a block away and if you can't play for him, you might be in the wrong business

But if you are going to extend a second chance, you have to use the hammer when the player messes up. That's where the Argos got it right.

Consider Baker's sanctions.

He must phone the president of the Calgary Stampeders and apologize.

He apologized to fans yesterday through a statement and via the media. Baker called his actions unacceptable and said "situations like this will never arise again."

He will commit community time to minor football, apologize to his teammates and endure a one-week suspension.

There is little more you could have asked of him.

Wonder if Texas Rangers crackpot Kenny Rogers will be calling the cameraman he assaulted last week to say he was sorry. Instead, Rogers, through his union, appealed his 20-game suspension so he could appear in the all-star game.

The lesson offered by Robert Baker and the Argonauts is simple enough. When you mess up, say so, make restitution and move on. And know you're one step closer to the door.


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