Ray Rice hasn’t gotten a call from any teams since being reinstated by the NFL at the end of 2014. He’s only 28 years of age and just a few seasons removed from shining on a Super Bowl winning team in Baltimore, but the memories of his vicious elevator assault on his then-fiancee Janay Palmer and the public relations horror that followed makes teams avoid him like the plague.
On Tuesday, Rice, a former Baltimore Ravens running back, told Jemele “Juice" Hill on Outside The Lines that he understands NFL teams have been hesitant to sign him because of that surveillance video.
"We do live in a society where public opinion matters, and I totally respect that," Rice said during the interview. "Domestic violence is real. It happens every 12 seconds as we speak. ... I think that that issue alone with me in my situation, having the video -- that puts a lot in perspective. That vivid memory, obviously, that was the worst decision I've ever made in my life."
I spoke to the homie Juice Hill after the Ray Rice interview, just to see if she would call his bs card or not. He seemed sincere to me, but I wanted to ask the First Lady of ESPN -- the legend who conducted the interview -- what she thought.
"As a reporter, you're trained to detect bull," Hill told The Shadow League. " I've interviewed a lot of people that I knew were flat-out lying to me. I've interviewed athletes that are only saying what they need to say to present the best picture of themselves. Call me a fool, but this wasn't one of those times. He was sincere and emotional. But he also understand that he did something that people never will be able to forgive. For him, the hard part is knowing that for 27-plus years he was known as a guy with impeccable character. And within one video, he has been reduced to a man who people prefer just go away."
Rice is the posterchild for domestic violence, an issue that has risen to the top of the NFL’s public relations food chain of priority. There is no way any NFL squad is going to bring him into the fold with that scarlet letter blazing from his helmet in every huddle.
Hill is sensitive to domestic violence issues after growing up with an abusive father as a child in Detroit. She was also the first reporter to do an exclusive interview with Janay Palmer after the bombshell tape was released.
It’s only right now that she tie a bow on this horrific situation by interviewing Rice and examining his current state of mind and what he was actually thinking during those life-changing moments in the elevator.
Rice, 28, said he considers himself a "rehabilitated man" and that he has tried to convey that point to potentially interested teams.
Hoping to play in the NFL this season, Rice has been more vocal these days and openly speaking about his situation. His family is still intact, which provides him some dignity in the situation and hopefully others will adopt the “if his family forgives him, then we should” approach.
His wife forgave him by the first Hill interview.
“It pisses me off (when people call him a wife beater),” Janay Rice told Hill. “I get angry about it, because it’s the furthest thing from the truth. He’s been made out to be this monster. He’s not a wife beater. He’s someone who’s made a mistake. He's human.”
And when Rice was reinstated at the end of 2014, he and his wife were both optimistic that he would find another job. In a later chat, Janay told Hill that they learned of the ruling while at the house of her mother, and were with family and friends at the time.
"It feels unbelievable," Janay said. "It's a relief. We've been telling the same story for months and we always had faith that we'd done the right thing. Everyone deserves a second chance. We're excited about what the future will bring."
The future hasn’t brought much in terms of football and financial opportunities and Rice has several obstacle courses to maneuver through before he will get a sniff from an NFL club.
His video lives in infamy and it’s a major public relations hurdle for any team. Rice’s 3.1 yard per carry average in 2013, the last season he played, is unimpressive. He also finished dead last among qualifying rushers in yards after contact, which speaks to his limited elusiveness at this point in his career. To top it off, he’s coming off an injury plagued season. Combine those physical limitations with the fact that his name is PR mud and Rice’s best hope at this point would be to land on a team’s emergency list. Each team has such a list at every position for depth chart and injury issues.
Rice addressed his disappointing 2013 campaign, when he rushed for a career-low 660 yards. A three-time Pro Bowler, Rice was slowed by a hip injury, but also said he doesn't think his health is preventing him from signing with another NFL team.
"I treated this year, for me being out, as an injury year except for it wasn't physical -- it was mental," he said. "It was everything about rehabilitating myself to be the best husband, father, and go out there and share my story...I took this year as an injury mentally. Mentally, I just went through a lot."
Time is ticking and Rice is becoming an NFL ghost. At least he was given a platform to express his regret and “sell” himself to the public as a reformed individual who is willing to crusade against the very thing that has come to characterize him and make him an NFL outcast.
At the very least, Rice wants to go out on his own terms and not as a disgraced ex-star running back. It’s interesting because as I watched the Ray Rice interview with my wife, while I felt some sympathy for his situation and admired his courage to be able to speak about his transgressions and still maintain a positive outlook on life, her response was, “Oh Well. Too bad. You made the choice. Now do something else.”
It seems as if the majority of opinions concerning Rice and his future are expressed in that unforgiving tone.
Maybe Rice should start looking at a career in coaching. His family has to eat and that way he can stay around the game and share some of his on-and-off field experiences with younger players.
Rice said on multiple occasions that he wants to "hang them up the right way" but also emphasized that he understands playing in the NFL is a "privilege."
"I understand why maybe a few teams or teams shy away from me," Rice said. "I understand that because it's a privilege. It truly is a privilege to play in the NFL. It's a privilege to play professional sports."
"I always preach one or two bad decisions, and your dream could become a nightmare. Well, I had to eat my own words. I truly lived a nightmare. There is no set in stone whether you're going to get a second chance or not. I have to set my hope and faith and everything else that I'm doing in my life, I'm just really hopeful for a second chance."
Hope may have gotten him to the NFL, but it won’t erase the easily accessible video of Rice displaying what some would say are still his “true colors.”
He said all of the right things in his interview with ESPN’s Hill, but the damage has already been done. There’s no quick fix to this for the Rice Family. The NFL is probably a thing of the past for Rice. His glory days as a revered celebrity baller are over.
It’s time to start a new journey.
A journey where he shows his worth not only as an athlete, but as a man, everyday, step by step, action by action. He's at the the place where -- after the glitter and the glamour and the pursuit of monetary and frivolous objects passes -- we all eventually end up in life.
Welcome to the real world Ray.