GREEN BAY, Wis. — It's Christmas Eve, 1989, his Indianapolis Colts have just lost to New Orleans to miss the playoffs and Andre Rison is clocked by the Highway Patrol going 128 mph in a 55-mph zone.
Rison's response to the trooper who stops him: "I thought I was only doing 95."
Fast-forward to Atlanta, where Left Eye is looking cross-eyed at her boyfriend, Andre Rison, who has been out all night with the guys.
Rison has already been charged with aggravated assault, discharging a firearm, simple battery and carrying a pistol without a license after a fight with Left Eye, also known as Lisa Lopes, one of the three members of the singing group, TLC. Lopes also has been charged with attacking a police officer.
That little misunderstanding has been cleared up, but now Left Eye has a bat in her hands and she's blasting the windshields of the various cars Rison owns. They argue, he takes a walk to cool off. She starts a fire in the sunken bathtub of the house they share, and Rison's two-story mansion, valued at more than $1 million, goes up in flames.
Rison's response to Left Eye: He marries her.
Still in Atlanta, Rison misses a team bus and is benched for a quarter. A few weeks later, after committing his 19th team infraction, he is suspended for a game.
The NFL's response to an irresponsible Rison: A bidding war ensues for his services, Cleveland winning and paying the wide receiver $17.075 million for five years, plus a $5-million signing bonus.
The Cleveland experience immediately goes sour. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde likes to throw to spots, and Rison likes to run pass routes where he pleases, so the two seldom make a connection.
The fans don't think Rison is giving full effort and begin to boo him, and he responds by ripping the good people of Cleveland, who then boo him every time he touches the ball the rest of the season. A sign is hoisted at the Browns' final game: "Dear Andre--The Fans of Cleveland Hope You Get a Very Warm Welcome in Baltimore." Beneath that is a picture of a house--on fire.
Owner Art Modell has announced that he's moving the team, and later at an owners' meeting cites as one of his major reasons for moving his desperate financial situation, saying he had to go to a bank for a personal loan to pay Rison's signing bonus. Rison becomes the lightning rod for the Browns' move to Baltimore.
Rison's response to the irritated Cleveland fans: "Hey, Art Modell is cool. He just wanted a new stadium. I do too. We don't have a home field. Our home is Baltimore. To hell with these fans."
In Baltimore, new Raven Coach Ted Marchibroda gets a look at Rison and cuts him before the season begins. Jacksonville then hands him a three-year, $6.6-million contract, and Rison is the only player not to show up for a mandatory meet-the-Jacksonville-community dinner to start the season. He's fined. He's late for more team meetings, and he's fined some more.
Quarterback Mark Brunell throws 20 interceptions, and insiders say that most result from Rison's turning the wrong way on his patterns. The team loses, Rison blasts Coach Tom Coughlin in the newspaper, gets into a dispute with Brunell and is fired.
Jacksonville's response to losing Rison: The team hasn't lost a game since his departure.
Whew! It's been some ride for the rambunctious one, residing now in the land of legends, of good sport and tradition, and why in the world would the Green Bay Packers want Andre Rison?
The Packers' response: Whatever it takes to win the Super Bowl.
Recalling the Packers' talk about Rison only a little while ago, they apparently have made a pact with the devil. Quarterback Brett Favre, who had been Rison's teammate in Atlanta, advised Packer General Manager Ron Wolf two years ago that it would be a mistake offering Rison big money. And when Rison selected Cleveland over Green Bay, Wolf told reporters, "We lucked out."
But then Robert Brooks went down with a season-ending knee injury, Antonio Freeman broke his arm and tight end Mark Chmura was hurting. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Packers on a Monday night, and Green Bay's reserve wide receivers were ineffective.
The next day the Packers were on the telephone with Rison, who had boasted as a rookie that he was already as good as San Francisco's Jerry Rice, who was wearing three Super Bowl rings at the time.
"It used to really bother me that Jerry and I would have comparable numbers, but he was always considered up there on a level by himself," Rison says. "Can you imagine me running routes for Montana or Marino? I wouldn't have to fight for respect.
"Sometimes I used to lay in bed and just say, 'I wish I was in the West Coast offense.' And then you will hear nothing from me. The only thing you will hear is, 'Rison scored again.' "
With his promise that he would be a good soldier and keep his mouth closed, the Packers claimed Rison on waivers from Jacksonville, beating San Francisco, Dallas and Kansas City, who were also after him but were waiting for him to clear waivers.