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Potential Ray Rice absence could loom large early this season

Ray Rice is likely facing a suspension from the NFL with the Ravens facing divisional opponents in their first three games.

Matthew Stockman

In December, the Ravens were aware of their 2014 season opponents. It was just a matter of when those games would be played. Once the schedule was released on Wednesday evening, that question was answered.

Unfortunately, the league didn't do the Ravens any favors by scheduling three divisional matchups to begin the season, especially two games within five days. Even worse for the team, these games may be played without their top running back.

On Monday, running back Ray Rice will be arraigned, stemming from a domestic incident with his then fiancée at an Atlantic City casino. Rice isn't expected to serve any jail time, but could be facing a sentence between 3-5 years. Perhaps more threatening to Rice could be a punishment by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

Goodell's first suspension under the policy was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused but not convicted of sexual assault. An original suspension of six games was ultimately reduced to four.

Even though the cases are different, there are many commonalities between the two in terms of how the league will peruse punishment for one of its premier athletes.

Regardless, if Rice is suspended, we now know that the impact will be greater than just losing an offensive weapon. It's losing that weapon during an extremely critical part of the season.

Since his arrest, the often public Rice has kept a low profile everywhere but inside of a weight room. Rice has dropped a minimum of ten pounds from last season's playing weight and appears to have regained his explosiveness he lost last season after suffering a hip injury early into the year.

Rice is looking to rebound both on and off of the field. Given the work he has done to repair his body and reputation, hopefully both return sooner rather than later.

Especially for the sake of Rice's teammates and their hopes of regaining their prominence atop the AFC North.