Marino: here for a bad time, not a long time

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So long, farewell, you gave us quite a fright. lee lim

CFL bad boy released from the Roughriders

He just can’t keep out of the news, and for all the wrong reasons. Earlier this year, Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive lineman Garrett Marino received the longest suspension in CFL history. On July 8, Marino illegally tackled Ottawa Redblacks’ quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli. Adding insult to injury, Marino then made inappropriate comments about Masoli’s heritage and celebrated the low tackle. For this, along with another illegal tackle earlier in the game, Marino was given a four-game suspension.

The 28-year-old California man was notorious long before his suspension. Marino played college football for the University of Alabama-Birmingham before he entered the CFL, and only joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders recently in 2021. He describes himself as one who plays “the game with an edge.”

Too edgy, apparently, because now Marino is a free agent. Returning from his suspension, Marino was fined again for unnecessary roughness. During the Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Marino tackled Winnipeg’s starting quarterback, Zach Collaros. Normally, this would be a good thing. The only problem was that Collaros didn’t have possession of the ball. In other words, an utterly unnecessary and illegal hit. On September 6, the Roughriders released him.

The day after Marino’s release, Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson told the media, “When he sees the other colour, he hits it. He doesn’t know half the time if it’s the quarterback, running back, o-lineman, if he sees a jersey of a different colour, he hits it. […] That’s why he’s so darn good and disruptive, but it also is a dangerous way to play and it gets you in trouble.”

So Marino did get in trouble – several times. He earned himself the longest suspension in CFL history. Then, after this suspension, there was no apparent change in his behaviour on the field. Is Marino’s release too little too late?

In most cases, releasing a player from a team is much less dramatic. Like any other organization, if a player has become more of a liability than an asset, they are let go. In most cases, it’s a respectful and unremarkable departure. The player has outlived their usefulness. The team must make room for fresher talent. Thank you for your service, and best of luck for the future!

Considering Marino received the longest suspension ever, then continued to act aggressively and recklessly, why wasn’t he released earlier? Is Marino such a great defensive lineman that the Roughriders overlooked his racist taunts and unprecedented suspensions?

In August of this year, the Roughriders released offensive lineman Na’Ty Rodgers because he had 14 penalties in nine games. After Rodgers’ release, Craig Dickenson made the following comments: “I know (the media) doesn’t believe me when I say that, but it’s true. We really emphasize playing within the rules, playing clean, and he wasn’t able to do that. We talked to him numerous times and we really tried to bring it home to him. At some point, if a guy is struggling to play within the rules and isn’t playing well on top of that, you have to make a decision that is the best for the team.”

Marino demonstrated time and again that he can’t play within the rules. He can’t play clean. But it appears that Marino’s performance was good enough to overlook these transgressions. After that brutal tackle on Masoli, after the racially-charged comments, after the longest suspension ever, it still wasn’t time to let Marino go. Keeping Marino on, it seems, was still in the team’s best interest.

Craig Dickenson, commenting further on Marino’s release, said, “It was a cumulative decision. It just got to be too much. You know, it starts wearing you down and becoming a distraction and he knows it. I don’t even think he was surprised.”

It’s not a good look. Marino’s short career with the Roughriders is a repugnant stain on the team. The fact that the team tolerated his behaviour for so long is also a profound disappointment. But for those of us who have been paying attention, we aren’t surprised either.

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