Ray Rice hasn’t played a snap of football since 2013. But he still believes he has something to contribute to a team that would take a chance on him.
“I can still play football,” Rice told ESPN over the weekend at a charity basketball tournament. “I’m never going to give up. You’re never going to hear me say I gave up.”
Rice hasn’t played since the revelation of a security tape showing him knocking his then-fiance unconscious. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell leveled an indefinite suspension on Rice, and the Baltimore Ravens released him. The career lifespan of a running back is a short one, but Rice insists he’s still got game. Rice also suggested that he’s being kept out of the league for non-football reasons.
“The reason why I’m not playing football, you do the dots,” Rice said. “It ain’t because I’m a bad football player. That’s just keeping it real. I’m never giving up and never giving in.”
Rice, 30, holds the Ravens’ career rushing record. But even in his final year, he was beginning to show signs of decline, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Bringing Rice to a new team would bring waves of protest and anger; the video showing Rice striking his fiance was reprehensible and galvanizing. The truth could be as simple as this: he’s no longer good enough to justify the public-relations headaches he’d bring.
Even in a vacuum, Rice’s continued viability as a running back would be in question. Rice was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft. Even the most talented running backs of that draft class—Jamaal Charles, Jonathan Stewart, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte—are on the back nine of their careers. Rice’s determination to return is admirable, but unlikely to pay off.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.