America loves a good redemption story. The NFL loves one, too.
But Ray Rice most likely won’t be getting one.
At a time when the term “distraction” somehow has become a bad word in the NFL, Rice presents a distraction that no coach will want to tolerate. It won’t take many players in any given locker room to create a critical mass that makes it impossible to welcome Rice to the team, and few if any teams ever will have few enough dissenters to justify giving Rice a job.
Rice’s shot at redemption becomes undermined in three ways. First, Rice apparently lied to the team and the league about what happened in the elevator, creating the apparent impression with the Ravens that a punch wasn’t even thrown. Second, the video becomes indelible and undeniable; if video had existed of Mike Vick drowning or electrocuting dogs, for example, it would have been hard for the NFL to give Vick a second chance.
Third, and most importantly from a football standpoint, Rice plays a position that has more supply than demand. With six years of wear and tear and signs of diminishing skill, teams will opt in all cases for a guy who doesn’t carry a big, nasty pile of baggage into the building.
For Rice, the best and only hope could be the Patriots, given the whole Rutgers/Schiano connection. But even if Bill Belichick wants to give Rice another chance, owner Bob Kraft — who once abruptly rescinded the rights to fifth-round draft pick Christian Peter based on his record of violence against women — probably would block it from happening.
So it’s likely over in the NFL for Ray Rice.