Simeon Rice thinks he deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Ravens would probably support that bid, if only for what Rice saved them from.
When the Illinois defensive end made a late climb up draft boards and was chosen third overall by the Cardinals in the 1996 NFL Draft, it cleared the way for the Ravens to take UCLA tackle Jonathan Ogden instead of Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips.
That obviously worked out pretty well for them, since Ogden is already enshrined in Canton himself, while Phillips is facing murder charges involving the death of his cellmate in a California prison.
But looking back at that decision shows how close the Ravens were to making a terrible mistake.
They figured Southern Cal wideout Keyshawn Johnson and Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy would be gone, leaving Ogden and Phillips in the next two spots. They seemed comfortable enough with Phillips to take him if it fell that way, despite his track record at Nebraska of domestic assault.
“I had no qualms about taking him, because I felt, based on our investigation, that he was subject to quick and complete rehabilitation and that he would have been a class-A citizen and a man the city of Baltimore would have been proud of,” the late owner Art Modell said of Phillips, via Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun. “There was no doubt that we were going to take Ogden if he was there, but we didn’t think he would be in the fourth slot. The thing that threw everything out of kilter was Rice going early.”
As the Ravens prepared for that draft, the possibility of an Ogden-Phillips choice was one they worked through and discussed. According to the report, Modell wanted Phillips, while personnel wizard Ozzie Newsome preferred Ogden.
“He was the cleanest of all the guys on the board,” Newsome said of Ogden. (The Ravens would go onto draft Miami linebacker Ray Lewis later in the first round.)
Phillips eventually went sixth overall to the Rams, and the Ravens avoided a running back who would go on to embarrass a franchise and become a symbol of a greater problem in society.
At least for a few decades.