Ray Rice was once the star running back of the Baltimore Ravens. But all that ended once he decided to put his hands on his then-fiance Janay Palmer. Of course he did not go to jail and ended up marrying Ms. Palmer, but the sting of his act still follows him to this day. But escaping jail seems to be the only thing that went Ray’s way. Rice had his contract terminated by the Baltimore Ravens, his shoe contract terminated by Nike and he has been sitting at home waiting on the phone to ring for a while now. Heading into this season, some believed that he would get another chance to play. But even though there are some pulling for his return to the NFL, there are others that would rather see him never return again. There are some people that think he is getting blackballed from getting a second chance in the NFL because of the act he committed. But unfortunately, that may not be the entire case against Ray Rice returning. In fact, there may be even more information as to why he is not an employee of the NFL right now.
When Ray Rice was selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft and immediately some thought he would be too small to be a full-time back. But the 5’8” running back out of Rutgers was up to the task of making it happen with or without the belief of everyone. Rice was a complementary back in his first year, but after that he took over the position. He would rattle off four straight 1,000 yard seasons while proving to everyone that he was big enough to take on the position. He used his bulky 200+ pound frame to fit through holes and make defenses pay. But one thing that some looked over is the regression he made from 2011 to his last year in 2013. Rice’s yards, carries, yards per carry, touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards all went down over the last three years he played. Some of that may be contributed to him splitting carries with other running backs and less emphasis on the running game. But there is also the thought that he was declining early. If the latter is the case, then imagine what Ray Rice would or would not be able to give a team who gives him a chance. He would be rested from not playing for a while, but he would be rusty from all the time he has missed. That alone could cause him to miss holes he would normally hit if he was in a regular routine of practicing. And there is no telling how long it would take for him to get those skills back. With the decline of his numbers over the years and his time away from the game, there is no guarantee he would be able to help a team.
Rice will be rusty should be get a chance to return, but he will also be climbing the ladder of age. The last time Ray Rice played football, he was 26 years old. He was declining in his numbers even at age 26. Sitting at age 28, Ray Rice is now battling time along with the stigmatism attached to him. The age many teams fear when it comes to running backs is 30. At that number, it seems like running backs hit a wall and aren’t what they used to be. And in those instances, it seems like they fall and fall hard. For example, Shaun Alexander was the star running back for the Seattle Seahawks at one point in time. Alexander had a huge year in 2006, when he amassed 1.880 yards and 27 touchdowns. He was spectacular all season that year. He was 28 that season. Over the next two years, he did not even reach 1,880 yards, compiled only 11 total touchdowns and did not play a full season his way to being out of Seattle. By the time Alexander left Seattle, he was 30 years old and clearly looking like he ran out of gas. He played with the Washington Redskins in his last season in 2008 and it was one that he would love to forget. He played in only 4 games and ran for a minuscule 24 yards. The threat of 30 is real for running backs and like Alexander, Rice is struggling leading up to that magical number for the running back decline. It’s very possible the team that signs him could get the same numbers that Washington got from Shaun Alexander. And if that is the case, then a team could do without him on their team.
Rice is trying to make it back to the NFL and he is doing all he can. He is more than likely training and staying in good health while attempting to come back. But the stigmatism is not the only thing that is keeping him away and is not the only thing that will keep him waiting on the phone to ring. The film does not lie and his production along with vision went down as he kept playing. And more than likely, the teams that may be interested in him could get the same production they get from Rice from a late-round draft pick or an undrafted back that steps up to the plate. In the business that is the NFL, the production of a player can outweigh the potential red flags. With Ray Rice, the production is not at a point where the teams interested could look over the potential media circus he would create. So with that in mind, Ray may be sitting there for a while waiting on the phone to ring. That next chance he wants may not ever happen. One costly incident has cost him but so has the lack of production before the incident happened. And with that being said, he may not ever play in the NFL again.