Lakeland native Chris Rainey, a former Florida Gators athlete, lost his job with the Pittsburgh Steelers after Gainesville police said he slapped his girlfriend Thursday morning and was charged with battery.
Hours later, the Steelers announced that they had cut Rainey, a fifth-round draft pick in April used mostly on kickoff returns.
"Chris Rainey's actions this morning were extremely disappointing," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Thursday in a statement. "Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Rainey, 24, and the woman he had been dating for nine months got into an argument over his cell phone, Gainesville police said in a news release.
Police said that after the argument, the woman entered the vehicle of Rainey's roommate. Rainey confronted her on the passenger side and began pulling her out of the vehicle, police said. Witnesses told police that Rainey slapped the woman across the face with an open hand, and both fell to the ground.
The woman was able to run away, but Rainey chased her because his cell phone was in her bag, police said. Rainey grabbed the bag again, and they both fell to the ground again, police said.
Police were called to the scene about 8:26 a.m.
Neither Rainey nor the woman suffered visible injuries, the news release said.
Rainey was arrested and charged with one count of simple battery (dating violence). He was taken to the Alachua County Jail, where he was to remain until a Friday hearing, officials said.
In 2010 while at Florida, Rainey was charged with aggravated stalking after police said he sent a former girlfriend a threatening text message. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor that resulted in counseling and community service. He was suspended from the team for five games.
Also, in December, Rainey was cited with defiant trespass, a summary offense, at Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Pennsylvania and fined $300, according to reports.
Rainey, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back and kick returner, just completed his rookie season in Pittsburgh, playing in all 16 games. He returned 39 kickoffs and three punts, and also rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and caught 14 passes for 60 yards.
As a senior, Rainey led Lakeland High School to the Class 5A state championship. He had more than 7,000 all-purpose yards and 90 touchdowns with the Dreadnaughts.