Linebacker deserves second chance

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

So if a guy is a great football player but he beats his wife, should you offer him a job?

We ask this question as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers pursue soon-to-be free agent Kyries Hebert, formerly of the Ottawa Renegades.

Hebert's football talents aren't up for debate. The guy led the Renegades in tackles and the CFL in special teams tackles last season.

His resume as a person contains less impressive statistics like domestic assault and resisting arrest charges.

A few months back, Hebert, 25, got into a pretty serious domestic dispute at his home near Houston.

In the police report, Hebert's wife, Kristina, says her husband smashed her head against the wall and shoved her head under water, threatening to kill her.

Initially charged with aggravated assault, a felony punishable by anywhere from two to 20 years in prison, Hebert has struck a plea bargain, which saw him plead guilty to two misdemeanours.

That may allow Hebert to resume his football career in Canada, but it doesn't change what happened.

"It's an offence that certainly raises a red flag," Blue Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer was saying yesterday.

STOP PURSUIT

Should it be enough to cause the Bombers, or any other CFL team, to stop their pursuit of the man?

Bomber defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who worked with Hebert in Ottawa last season, says he's been involved in decisions like this before.

Each one, he says, is a little different.

"Probably the biggest thing," Marshall said, "is where he's at mentally, and his outlook on things. How he's going to correct the mistakes he's made in the past."

It sounds like Hebert has taken the first step to doing that.

One of the keys to his plea bargain is Hebert's agreement to join a batterer's group at a women's centre in the Houston area.

The district attorney for Brazoria County, Jeri Yenne, says Hebert isn't downplaying what he did.

"One of the things that is significant to me, he had to acknowledge this is spousal battery," Yenne said. "He has to address it. He can't stick his head in the sand. He came in to face the music."

Of course, with a possible jail sentence staring you in the face, you're more likely to sing a softer tune.

It should also be noted that Hebert's wife didn't want to take the case to trial, a big factor in the plea deal.

Hebert isn't the first person to run into trouble with the law before running onto a football field. In fact, you could create a CFL all-criminal team with players who've drawn flags from both the men in stripes and the boys in blue.

Some, like former Bomber lineman Moe Elewonibi, have overcome addiction problems and turned their lives around.

But there's a difference between hurting yourself and hurting others.

At times, you wonder what coaches and GM's are thinking, doling out second, third and fourth chances like they were pairs of cleats.

That Montreal and Calgary actually saw fit to write paycheques to Lawrence Phillips a couple years ago, for example, boggles the mind.

Unlike Phillips, Hebert is a first-time offender.

According to Marshall, Hebert was, at least, a model player. Again, unlike Phillips.

"In all my dealing with him, it was nothing but positive," Marshall said. "A good guy to work with."

And there's that incredible talent.

"Let me put it to you this way: I'd rather play with him than against him," Marshall said.

Hebert has to prove to society that he's going to change.

CFL teams should demand no less.

By all means, give a guy a second chance, but with strings attached.

Perhaps whoever employs Hebert this season should insist he do some of his community service for the community in which he plays.

Otherwise you're just sending the wrong message about a very serious crime.


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