PRESTON: Ex-Raven Ray Rice has paid heavy price, deserves another chance
Most NFL training camps will have opened by the end of the week, and former Ravens running back Ray Rice probably won't be in one.
There is still a small chance he will get signed by one of the league's 31 other teams — the Ravens won't bring him back — but he would need a rash of injuries to happen at his position.
Who knows? Rice's pro football career might be over at the age of 28.
It's unfortunate, because I'd like to see Rice play again. I don't care whether he ever runs for a touchdown and flexes his biceps again. I don't need to see him break the ankles of another linebacker one-on-one in the open field or pull off another miracle first-down catch on a fourth-and-29.
I just want to see whether Rice has reverted to the person I remember during his first couple of seasons with the Ravens. That Rice was much different than the one we saw on video on Feb. 15, 2014, in a casino elevator in Atlantic City, N.J., where he punched and knocked out his wife, Janay, who was then his fiancee.
That was a Rice many had not seen, one who lost control of himself and respect for his wife.
I didn't know that Rice, and I really didn't know the old one well. As a writer, we're around players quite a lot, but we get only glimpses of their true personalities. And during Rice's early years, I just remember a humble kid, one of the most polite and well-mannered players I had met. You could tell there had been some structure and discipline in his life.
All of that, including the messages he delivered in those anti-bullying campaigns, appeared to be real and pure, not just some facade to present to the community.
Part of what happened to Rice happens to a lot of successful athletes. He couldn't handle the fame and the fortune, and his head just got bigger and bigger, to the point where he alienated teammates and assistant coaches during his last three seasons in Baltimore.
According to several of them, the height of Rice's arrogance came after the fourth-and-29 play he made against the San Diego Chargers in 2012 and then after the Super Bowl XLVII win the following February. He became a walking time bomb.
There are no excuses for what Rice did 17 months ago. His behavior was disgusting and unacceptable.
Still see good in him: I've wrestled with this over and over again, but I still see a lot of good in him. I remember the old Rice.
Some say he deserves a second chance. A Call To Men, a national organization that encourages men to end violence against women, is advocating for Rice to play again.
I can't say he deserves that second chance, but I hope he gets it. He went through the legal system and served his NFL suspension. And what has transpired since February 2014 is between him, his wife, counselors and advisers.
Other players who have been in as much trouble have returned.
Defensive end Greg Hardy was involved in a domestic-abuse case that eventually was dismissed, but he is now with the Dallas Cowboys, though he has to serve a four-game suspension.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson pleaded no contest in November to the misdemeanor charge of recklessly assaulting his 4-year-old son in September. He missed the entire 2014 season but signed a restructured, three year-contract last week with the Vikings.
Video will follow him: Rice's return isn't all about money and playing again. He saved enough money while in Baltimore and doesn't need to play football. Those close to him say he is more concerned about cleaning up his name and becoming a positive force in the community again.
His major problem, though, is that his name has become synonymous with domestic-abuse cases in pro sports. That video will follow him for the rest of his life. He also was hurt by an ESPN report that included text messages he received from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. That is almost unforgivable.
There might be some teams interested, but there are a lot of coaches and owners who aren't willing to put up with the negative publicity and distractions that will follow Rice.
It's all part of the consequences from that February night.
It's unlikely that Rice will be with any team in training camp, and that's disappointing.
He still might have something to offer a team as a player, and more as a person.
There is a lot of good inside him that he can share with others, both on and off the football field.