In a conference call with New England reporters, Ray Rice was asked about his career in a long-term sense.
"I'll just put it out there — my goal was to make it 10 years in the NFL," Rice said. "Anything after 10, if I can't do it the way I want to, then it's something to think about. But, I'm young. I came in the NFL at 21 years old, a young guy. So, I'm still young; I'm only going to be 27 in January. So, there's a lot of football left to be played. With that being said, I have priorities too. You know I have a young daughter, and you've just got to put all that in perspective when you're going out there week-in and week-out, especially when you get older in your career."
Since, this has generated a few headlines, given that Rice is still considered to be in the prime of his career, even if his numbers are down.
But let's think about it for a moment. The running back position is one of the most brutal to play. You take a pounding over time, given the collisions are violent on a week-to-week basis. It's only natural that running backs' bodies break down faster than others. They have to possess a balance of power, speed, strength, agility and durability. Every time they touch the ball, the risk for crushing hits is far greater than other positions.
So, should it come as a surprise that he's talking like he might retire at age 30, if the timing appears right? History shows that running backs hit a wall at age 30. Very few backs are like Curtis Martin, who ran for nearly 1,697 yards at the age of 31 in 2004 (Martin followed that up with 735 yards in 12 games in 2005, his final NFL season at the age of 32).
Running backs have a limited number of hits they can take over time. If Rice reaches 10 NFL seasons, he — and the Ravens if he sticks with them his entire career — can be thankful of the opportunity. According to a study from the NFL Players Association in the 2000s, running backs average 2.57 seasons in the NFL, compared to 3.3 seasons for all players.
Getting a decade in the NFL at running back far exceeds what most are able to do.
Another thing to consider is that Rice is in his sixth season. He has four more to go if he's going to reach that threshold. Rice talking about when he'll contemplate retiring is one thing. To make retirement seem like a reality at this point seems oddly premature.
For Ravens fans, it's best to enjoy Rice on the field for as long as he has in Baltimore — whether it's four more seasons or not.