After recent comments to SI.com by head coach Mike Pettine about the Cleveland Browns possibly adding Ray Rice to the roster, considering the team’s woes running the ball, it may not be such a bad idea.
One day after running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery stated that no one wanted the job, Pettine revealed that the Browns did in fact discuss the possibility of adding the former Super Bowl-winning running back, who struck his then fiancée, Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino, “Obviously Wilbert (Montgomery) was his position coach for Ray’s first six years in the league. I’m not going to say it didn’t come up in discussion, but at this point we’re not there yet.”
With the past connections of Pettine being with Rice as an assistant in Baltimore and Montgomery being his position coach in Baltimore from 2008 to 2013, per ESPN.com, one can connect the proverbial dots to the theory of Rice playing for the Browns. Obviously, the mere thought of Rice ever being on a football field again after such a horrific incident, that will forever tarnish his name and reputation is difficult for some, but at the end of the day, the business of winning trumps everything.
In an effort to look at this objectively, as journalists should never be afraid to address though-provoking and controversial issues such as this, this writer will ask any readers of this column to divest their personal feelings of Rice for a second, and ask yourself that if you were a fan of a team such as the Browns, who lack a dual-threat running back, who can—still at the age of 28—be an effective player—would you honestly consider the thought okay of him playing for YOUR team?
Traditionally, teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders have taken a flier out on troubled players such as Rice and given them second chances. It would take me too long to list all the players that the Oakland-Los Angeles-whatever Raiders have taken chances on, and Dallas themselves have also been linked to Rice thanks to the human china doll at running back in first-round bust Darren McFadden. Plus, they have a player who was actually convicted in a court of actual law in Greg Hardy set to serve a four-game suspension for domestic violence.
In Minnesota, you have the All-World—and demigod—in Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returning to the field after beating his four-year-old son with a switch. Yes, what Rice did that awful and that fateful evening in an Atlantic City casino will live in enteral social media and digital infamy, but if the likes of Hardy and Peterson are allowed a second chance, so does Rice.
Before the Rutgers Scarlet Knights joined the B1G, Rice was one of the cornerstone players who helped elevate the “birthplace of college football” in Piscataway a primetime destination and a member of college football’s most powerful conference (cue the hate mail from SEC homers). That being said, during his entire career at Rutgers, Rice never had any issues on or off the field, which translated over to the NFL during his seven-year stint with the Ravens.
Consider that his infamous knockout punch was played 24-7 nonstop on every social media and news outlet on a proverbial loop, Rice will have a hard time convincing any team of even a chance of offering a camp invite, let alone a roster spot. Due to the world of instant knee-jerk overreaction, hypocrisy and fake outrage, a player such as Rice may have burned whatever bridges he has left that night on the Boardwalk.
Perhaps, just maybe, Cleveland might be a good match for him considering their own struggles at running back with Isaiah Crowell (ball security), Terrance West (overweight, out of shape) and Duke Johnson (hamstring), that the Browns be the one team that dares to sign a player such as Rice. Despite the potential media and public relations backlash that would ensue, Cleveland may consider it.
In Rice, who came off his second-worst year in terms of yards rushing (660) and career-worst average of yards per carry (3.1) in 2013, still gives the Browns a better player in Rice, who combines all three abilities of West, Crowell and Johnson, while being a proven NFL talent, which is something that the Three Stooges have yet to do in training camp at this point.
Furthermore, Rice on the Browns forces teams to game-plan and be wary of his ability of running and receiving, which would take pressure off of Josh McCown—or Johnny Football—as well as open up things downfield for Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins.
To take it one step further, Rice would give the Browns their best pure running back since another Baltimore Raven—and long-time tormentor—Jamal Lewis, switched sides and donned the orange and brown. This writer is not suggesting directly that the Browns sign Rice, just simply stating that due to Cleveland’s perennial issues running the ball effectively, that it is not so far-fetched of a possibility.
If such a move were to indeed happen and that somehow Rice does end up suiting for Cleveland, it will be a tough and awfully bitter pill to swallow for Browns fans as well as female fans everywhere. But know this, that if Rice pans out, all will eventually be forgiven, but his actions will never be forgotten.