Brian Banks’ bid to build an NFL career after serving five years in prison for a crime he did not commit hit a roadblock on Friday, when he was cut by Atlanta.
The free-agent linebacker, signed on March 3 by the Falcons, was among 11 players released by the club on Friday as they trimmed their roster in advance of this year’s season.
The 28-year-old’s chances of making the team had appeared slim when he was played sparingly in the fourth quarter of the Falcons’ final pre-season game on Thursday, a 16-20 loss to Jacksonville.
The Falcons could still try to sign him to their practice squad, although those places typically go to younger players the team wants to develop.
Banks said this week that he was just happy to have a chance to chase his NFL dream.
“I’ve been fully consumed in making this team, trying to catch up on all those years I missed in football,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was definitely challenging, but overall, I enjoyed myself immensely.”
Just having such an opportunity seemed impossible in 2002, when Banks, then a 17-year-old high-school football star, was accused by a classmate of rape.
Despite the absence of DNA evidence linking Banks to a crime, he said his attorney convinced him to plead no-contest to charges of forcible rape and kidnapping.
He was sentenced to the maximum five years. Released from prison in 2007, Banks had to register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Last year, he was shocked when his accuser reached out to him through Facebook, her admission that Banks did not rape her leading to his exoneration.
Falcons coach Mike Smith was full of praise for Banks, who played last year for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League and worked out for the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers.
“He has really matured and progressed as a football player since we’ve had him on our roster,” Smith said. “He has been a great teammate to the guys in the locker room.”
However, it was not enough in the fiercely competitive NFL.