LOS ANGELES — Brian Banks knows the truth. He sees it every time he walks into an NFL locker room, straps on a helmet and tries to turn an audition into an invitation to training camp.
Banks also knows it doesn’t matter. This is a fantasy, a dream he wasn’t sure he would ever experience, and whatever happens from now on is pretty much a bonus. Given all he’s been through, a contract with an NFL club would be sweet, but it doesn’t compare to what he has now.
Banks, the former Long Beach Poly High star who served five years for a rape he didn’t commit, was exonerated last month when his accuser admitted she had lied about the alleged incident. Since then, he’s been on a whirlwind tour of workouts and minicamps for several teams.
So far, no one has offered him a training-camp roster spot, but Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who brought in Banks for a minicamp last week, said an NFL job isn’t the endgame for the 26-year-old.
“In my mind, it doesn’t matter. He’s already won huge,” said Carroll, who joined several NFL stars on the “NFL Play 60” bus stop that awarded $25,000 in fitness equipment to KIPP Raices Academy in Los Angeles.
“He’s going to be a tremendous example to so many people, and for all the people that have a chance to give somebody a second opportunity, I hope they’ll learn from this too. He’s worth it.”
Banks, 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, has had private workouts with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, and this week he’s taking part in a three-day rookie minicamp with the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings, Redskins, Falcons and Giants also have inquired, but Carroll said Banks will need to get himself in better shape before any team brings him back this summer.
Banks, who was away from the game for 10 years and only resumed working out after his case was cleared, will begin working with noted trainer Travelle Gaines this week. He also has done MMA-style training with FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer, who works with several NFL players at his Las Vegas gym.
If the additional training helps Banks get closer to football shape, his chances of receiving an invitation will improve, Carroll said.
“We’re going to give him the next six weeks to get in shape and show us what he can do with a really good conditioning program behind him,” Carroll said. “Then we’ll make a decision whether or not he gets to come to the big camp. He’s tried out for a couple of other teams, and he’s going to continue to do that. It’s a real long shot, of course, but he’s such a strong-minded kid, he’s got a chance.”
But even Carroll said Banks is running behind, and understandably so. Although he played one season at Long Beach City College in 2007, he never considered the NFL as a possible option. As a result, he wasn’t in good shape when Carroll called out of the blue last month.
“I know how long I’ve been away,” Banks told SI.com. “I know the odds. I’m going to give this 150 percent, and if it doesn’t happen, I will walk away with a huge smile on my face. The way I look at it, I’ve already won by securing my freedom.”
But there’s still that chance. The Seahawks signed an undrafted rookie linebacker, Kyle Knox of Fresno State, at the end of their minicamp, but Carroll said he’s willing to take another look at Banks. The 49ers may give him a try at inside linebacker and special teams. He ran a 4.77 40-yard dash for the Chiefs and figures to get faster with more training.
“He’s in pretty good shape for not being in shape,” Carroll said. “Our guys are so highly tuned and well-conditioned that, in comparison, he’s behind. But he looks great; he fits the bill. He’s big enough and strong enough and moves around well enough; but he’s also missed a lot of football.
“This is such an enormous jump. I don’t know how anybody can do it, but he’s getting a try right now.”
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who attended the “NFL Play 60” stop, said he was unsure how quickly Banks could adjust to the pace and rigors of the league. But he’s hopeful he’ll get a training-camp roster spot.
“I always root for the underdog,” Miller said. “I’m hoping for the best for him. I’m hoping to see him go out there and do good.”
So does Carroll. But he also knows it isn’t important. Banks knew the truth when he took a plea bargain and served his time for a crime he didn’t commit, and he knows the truth now — getting to the NFL won’t be easy.
“Because he’s such a great kid, we gave him the opportunity,” Carroll said. “It’s already worked out. He’s already made it in that he’s back in the world. He’s going to do some great stuff. You can’t keep him down.”