Ray Rice hasn't been to work since Sept. 7, so you'd figure he would have a lot of free time on his hands. However, that hasn't been the case at all. Throughout this entire ordeal, I've stayed in contact with Rice and most recently ran into him last week at an event for a mutual friend.
During this forced hiatus, Rice has been taking time to work on what is most important in his life — his family.
Unless you're been in an NFL training facility, you'd have no understanding of how much time and preparation goes into the product the NFL puts on the field each Sunday. Football is easily an 80-hour per week job and given the extra time Rice spent in the community, he neglected those closest to him.
What happened in the elevator on Valentine's evening at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. was a direct result of that.
Just because Rice hasn't been on the field doesn't mean he hasn't been doing everything possible to stay in football shape. Seeing Rice in person for the first time in a few months, it was evident that he hasn't missed any time in the gym and has been strict with his diet. Rice was very quick to show me how much he has improved his leg strength with a video of him dunking a basketball.
Not bad for someone who is only 5'8" and coming off a hip injury.
Most importantly, Ray and Janay are happy. With the entire country having seen their worst moment in their relationship on camera, they've handled this far better than I could have ever done, nor imagined. Their relationship seems natural and not like they have to show off or overly compensate in order to win over the approval of others around. What happens in their relationship is their business, but for what has happened, their bond is a lot stronger than many could have thought possible.
I'm very happy for them. At this time, people in their position need support, not naysayers. Rice's reinstatement into the league is a major step in the healing process for he and his family. Given the person I know and many people have seen around Baltimore, he'll continue to be the charming and loving person in the community that he always was.
Of course, Rice can't expect to win everyone back, but giving him a second chance shouldn't be too much to ask. Everyone reading this has made a mistake, and fortunately for us, they likely weren't video recorded doing it. Most of us also haven't done even 5% of the things Rice has done for complete strangers, so who are we to be his judge and jury?
Rice will play in the NFL again and there will be plenty of suitors for his services, especially after seeing him work out. It's not often that you can add a premier and healthy running back to your team this late in a season. Aside from a season plagued by injuries and a horrible offensive line, Rice has been just that.
Perhaps more than anyone else in the NFL, Rice understands how valuable the opportunity is to walk onto the field and certainly won't take it for granted. Football is full of motivational speeches from players and coaches, so why wouldn't you want to add someone more motivated than anyone else to your team?
Personally, I'm very happy for Rice's return to the NFL and will continue to cheer him on, even though I warned him to not sign in Pittsburgh. This whole situation has been bigger than just football, and knowing the person under the helmet, I have no doubt in my mind that Rice has learned his lesson and is a better person because of his downfall.