Three years ago this month, running back Ray Rice signed a contract with the Ravens that paid him $24 million over the first eight months. In the eight months since Rice’s indefinite suspension was overturned, Rice hasn’t gotten a single sniff from any of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Plenty of people have said Rice deserves a second chance, but no one has given him one. The stigma arising from his brutal assault on then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer lingers, and Rice lacks the talent to overcome it. His age (28) works against him, as does the fact that Rice’s play dropped dramatically in his most recent full season of action, with 660 yards rushing and an average of 3.1 yards per carry — the lowest of his career by 0.9.
Many think if Rice’s name were Adrian Peterson, he’d still be playing. But it would be hard even for Peterson to overcome the video evidence that emerged only four days before Rice’s two-game suspension was due to end. Even though anyone with any degree of common sense and/or basic human empathy knew what a man knocking out a woman looked like without having to see it, seeing it changed everything for Rice.
With the offseason program over and training camp looming, the only question remaining is whether Rice’s name shows up on any team’s list of players to call if/when injuries happen to running back already on the roster. Even if he’s a candidate to be contacted, the ultimately challenge will be to get the owner to sign off on signing Rice.
So far, no one has. It would be naive not to at least wonder whether the league office has put out the word to shy away from Rice, given the controversy his conduct sparked — and the consequences it nearly caused. Still, the league always consists of a team or two that is inclined to stick it to 345 Park Avenue; the bigger question is whether the rush that would come from defiance would outweigh the ruckus that Rice’s arrival could cause for the team that gives him a job.