Riders signing Justin Cox was a risk worth taking

It was almost a year ago the Roughriders took a chance on a kid with a checkered past when they inked defensive back Justin Cox.

At the time, the signing came with little fanfare. Cox was another in an endless line of generally anonymous American players who make their way to the CFL every year in hopes of becoming professional football players. Throughout training camp and the early parts of the season, Cox went from unknown to a key player in Saskatchewan as one of the team’s top defenders. The defence, and the team as a whole, struggled out of the gate but Cox was one of the few bright spots.

The move didn’t come without its risks though. The CFL has a new policy when it comes to players and violence against women. Cox had previously been charged twice for among other things, domestic violence related charges (you can read about how those events played out here). None of this prevented Cox from joining the Riders in the first place but one more slip up and he was done.

Cox isn’t the first player to sign in the CFL with previous legal issues and he certainly won’t be the last. Chris Jones rightly said earlier this year that you wouldn’t have much of a league if teams were only allowed to sign players with squeaky clean pasts. Cox, like many before him, deserved a second chance at professional football. Jones himself is very found of reclamation projects. He enjoys giving guys another chance and having it work to his advantage. Sometimes, it’s not going to work out.

It certainly seemed like Cox was poised to make the most of that chance after being named the Riders most outstanding rookie in 2016. It was just a few months ago in December that the team and Cox agreed on a contract extension that would have seen the 24-year-old remain in green and white through the 2018 season. He was on the right path.

That second chance is now gone after Cox was charged with assault causing bodily harm in Regina this week. We don’t know all of the details and we may never but even if there wasn’t a league wide policy in the place, the Riders did the right thing. This go around was Cox’s last chance and such a serious crime shouldn’t be tolerated by this team or any other. That’s especially true when this isn’t the first time Cox has faced such allegations.

The Riders now have a huge hole in their secondary. It’s an inconvenience but it’s a minor one compared to the real life problems that the victim and her family are now going through.

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