It's been three years since the Ray Rice domestic violence incident in Atlantic City. The night that destroyed Rice's career and made him the face of domestic violence in the NFL. From 2008-2013, Rice was not only one of the best running backs in the NFL, but he was one of the league's good guys. Always working hard in the community and for numerous charities. Ray Lewis even took him under his wing because he thought Rice was a special player and a special person. February 15, 2014, changed everything. After the chaos, the Ravens eventually released Rice after a second full video came out of Rice knocking out his then fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer in an elevator just a day after Baltimore's opening day loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, not only has Rice never been signed by another team, there hasn't been one single free agent visit.
Still, Ray Rice hasn't given up on possibly playing in the NFL again and he reiterated his desire at former Ravens and current Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith's charity basketball game held in Baltimore over the weekend.
Per ESPN's Jamison Hensley, Rice stated:
“The reason why I'm not playing football, you do the dots. It ain't because I'm not a bad football player. That's just keeping it real. I'm never giving up and I'm never giving in. I can still play football. I'm never going to give up. You're never going to hear me say I give up."
To me, Rice is half wrong and half right. He's right about the reason he's not playing, everybody knows. If any team signed him, it could be a potential public relations nightmare for any organization. ESPN, NFL Network, CNN, and many other media outlets would barge into a teams training camp gates just to get a glimpse at the villain of their television show. Heck, HBO would want so desperately for a team with Ray Rice on it to be featured on Hard Knocks. It would be a very bad distraction.
Here's where Rice may be wrong, the last full season he played was in 2013, and it was the worst year of his career. Rice rushed for 660 yards and averaged 3.1 yards per carry during that season. The catch however, is that Rice was running behind one of the worst offensive lines in football that season. In 2014, Baltimore's offensive line got better and in his limited action in the preseason, Rice showed that he still could've been an effective running back in the NFL. Unfortunately, once the second video was released, Rice was cut by Baltimore, suspended indefinitely, and Justin Forsett would permanently take his place and have a career year of his own. What also doesn't work in his favor is the fact that he is now 30 years old and has missed essentially three years of pro football. Rust and age plays a factor.
Rice has trained non-stop ever since the day he was cut. He has taken the label that has now been placed on him with grace and dignity. He has always been honest about the situation he put himself into and has owned up to his career destroying mistake. Will Rice get another shot? It's highly doubtful, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Does he deserve one? That's debatable.
One thing’s for sure, as the years pass, the chances of Rice ever getting another shot decrease significantly. Think about this for a second, the Oakland Raiders would rather lure Marshawn Lynch out of a year long retirement than sign Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, let alone Ray Rice. It really does seem like Rice's NFL career is indeed over, just don't tell that to the man himself. Maybe, just maybe, Rice will get another shot and his story can have a great redemption ending. Rice can also show to the public the kind of person he really is and show that his legacy will not be defined by that one February night in 2014. After three years though, it just seems like he will never get that chance.