It’s been six months since NFL free agentRay Rice won his appeal, and had his suspension lifted. Yet, the 28-year-old running back remains unsigned. Not only has no team offered him a contract, none of the 32 franchises have even called him in for a workout.
Several people who work for NFL teams at various levels told Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks that due to the backlash the Chicago Bears received after signing Ray McDonald — who had a history of alleged domestic violence before getting arrested twice after joining the team — Rice may never get another opportunity to play in the NFL.
“It’s a tough one, especially after Ray McDonald, but I think he’s probably done. He was declining and he plays a replaceable position. I think he would have been signed by now if it was going to happen.”
“I feel he should get a chance, but people have that vision of him hitting his now-wife in the head, and that will not go away. Whoever takes him will face scrutiny, and I don’t know if anybody wants that headache. For me, I would have a tough time with it. If that was my daughter he hit, he wouldn’t be playing football again.”
This has led NFL Players’ Union head DeMaurice Smith to publicly claim NFL teams are “blackballing” Rice:
“This, unfortunately, is a league that has a history of blackballing players. I find it hard to believe that a player of Mr. Rice’s calibre hasn’t at least gotten one offer from a team to come work out.”
While, even recently, controversy hasn’t stopped NFL teams from signing or retaining players with plenty of baggage — such as the Minnesota Vikings refusing to trade Adrian Peterson, the Dallas Cowboys signing Greg Hardy, and the Seattle Seahawks drafting Frank Clark — all of those players are coming off of successful seasons and are still playing at a high-level.
The last time Rice played in an NFL regular season game was 17 months ago where he ran the ball six times for a paltry 15 yards. Rice finished the 2013 season with just 660 rushing yards on 3.1 yards per carry. The majority of NFL personnel who believe Rice will never play again, sees his declining play as a major factor. A front office person told Banks:
“Ray McDonald did Ray Rice absolutely no favours, because every time domestic violence is in the headlines, that brings Rice back onto the radar for the wrong reason. Now, if he had rushed for 1,200 yards with a 4.5 yard average the last time he played, that might be different. If he was the Ray Rice of 2008-12. But the last time we saw him he ran for 660 yards and a 3.1 average carry.”
By the fall Rice will be 28 and out of football for a full year.
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