How Ray Rice plays in the NFL in 2015

ray riceRay Rice is only on the sidelines in a figurative sense. The former Baltimore Ravens running back remains on the NFL indefinite suspension list in the aftermath of the release of security-camera footage showing him punching his then-fiancee twice, knocking her out cold, in a new jersey elevator in February.

It won’t be this year, but Rice will almost certainly be back in an NFL uniform in 2015.

Which isn’t to say that he can’t still screw it up and be done for good, but the indications at this point are that Rice is doing what he needs to do. Basically, he’s not taking the approach of Adrian Peterson, who is lashing out at the media for raising issue with the conduct of his charitable foundation, which appears to be charitable in name only, even as he works to defend himself against post-Rice video charges of child abuse in connection with the disciplining of his 4-year-old son.

Rice has been silent publicly, and his now-wife, Janay, has been silent since taking to social media in the immediate aftermath of Rice’s suspension to complain about the media handling of the story.

This silence is the best approach; silence allows tensions to dissipate, and as long as Rice stays out of any other trouble, at some point in the upcoming offseason early next year, just as the NFL turns its attention to personnel moves to get ready for the 2015 season, he could agree to a sitdown interview with a TV talking head in which he would express contrition, beg the football-viewing public for forgiveness, and plead for a second chance.

It wouldn’t hurt in the intervening time if he wouldn’t engage in a few good works of some sort. Not necessarily for public consumption, i.e. with invited cameras, but something that could let the word sort of circulate on its own, eventually rising to the level of public discourse.

So the game plan is: avoid anything else negative, even a parking ticket; certainly don’t get caught doing anything in a bar after hours; do a few good things; don’t complain about your predicament, since you brought it on yourself anyway; and then you play next year.

It won’t be easy for whatever team ends up taking him on, at the outset. The blueprint for how to handle the initial negative PR could come from how the Philadelphia Eagles dealt with the move to bring michael vick into the fold after his prison stint related to his abhorrent dogfighting operation. And actually Vick himself deserves a lot of credit himself for repairing his reputation. He didn’t make excuses, talked about how he knew he needed to change, and otherwise kept his mouth shut.

Vick is in the declining years of his career now, but he has become a sort of elder statesman in the NFL as an example of how someone who had it all, lost it all, literally, can reclaim himself on the field and in life. There’s a lesson there to be learned for all of us, pious though we all can be about how we’ve never run dogfighting operations, hit our spouses or beaten kids. Life is full of ups and downs for all of us, and as the Dwayne Wade TV commercial from a few years ago taught us by way of trying to sell us sneakers, it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up.

Ray Rice will get back up. We all, even his most ardent critics, ought to root for him as he does.

– Column by Chris Graham

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