NFL Nation: Ray Rice

Ray RiceAP Photo/Tom DiPaceRay Rice has been the Ravens' lead running back the past five seasons. Are those days over?
BALTIMORE -- Shortly after becoming the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak made this pronouncement: "As Ray Rice goes, we’ll go." Two months later, Kubiak obviously has to make his first audible.

The Ravens need to take a running back in this year's draft, because they need insurance not only for this season but for the future. The best investment the Ravens could make in the middle rounds is to select a running back such as Towson's Terrance West, Washington's Bishop Sankey, Florida State's Devonta Freeman, Boston College's Andre Williams or West Virginia's Charles Sims.

Much of the talk at running back has centered on how much time Rice will miss in 2014, and it's a legitimate concern after he was indicted for third-degree aggravated assault after allegedly striking his now-wife unconscious. Rice was arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence Feb. 15 after a physical altercation with Janay Palmer at the Revel Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. Even if Rice is found not guilty or avoids jail time, he is expected to face punishment from the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.

The Ravens have repeatedly voiced their support for Rice, and owner Steve Bisciotti said he believes Rice has a future with the team. But the Ravens' front office is too shrewd to rest all of its hopes on Rice. No one knows what to expect out of Rice when he does line up in the Ravens' backfield. He is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry and produced more fumbles (two) than 20-yard runs (one).

The Ravens have done their part to help this offseason by re-signing left tackle Eugene Monroe and trading for center Jeremy Zuttah. Rice is working hard to rebound and has reportedly lost 15 pounds. What if this isn't enough? Bisciotti acknowledged at the end of the season that the team did bring up the question of whether Rice is done.

Numbers suggest Rice's days as a premier playmaker in the league are over. The wear and tear of the position has caught up to most of the running backs in the 2008 draft class. Of the top 10 backs taken that year, six averaged less than 4 yards per carry last season, and two are out of the league.


Those who defend Rice will say he lacked explosion after injuring his hip in Week 2 and he didn't have any running room because of the Ravens' dreadful offensive line. There is just no reasoning behind why Rice failed to make plays when catching the ball in space. He averaged 5.5 yards per reception, which was the worst of his career by an average of two yards. Since that memorable "Hey Diddle Diddle Ray Rice Up The Middle" moment in November 2012 -- when Rice converted a fourth-and-29 in San Diego with a 29-yard catch and run -- he has had three catches over 20 yards. That is over a span of 24 games, and only 13 of those came after Rice's injury.

Rice turned 27 this year, which is a telling age for NFL running backs. As ESPN's Kevin Seifert pointed out, running backs are peaking at 27 before suffering significant drop-offs. This is why 72 percent of running backs currently under contract are 26 or younger.

If Rice misses games or struggles again, the Ravens don't have much of a safety net. Backup running back Bernard Pierce's stock dropped last season. Pierce averaged 2.9 yards per carry, which was second-worst among qualified running backs, and couldn't stay healthy for a second straight year. He won't practice until the start of training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. There is no guarantee that he'll be at full strength when the season begins or whether he has the durability to handle the starting job for an extended period.

The need to draft a running back increased this offseason when the Ravens signed Justin Forsett in free agency instead of LeGarrette Blount as their third running back. Forsett has experience in Kubiak's system, but it's never a good sign to have "cut by the Jaguars" on your résumé.

It's no longer a question of if the Ravens should draft a running back. It's a matter of when. Most draft analysts have the Ravens selecting an offensive lineman and a safety in the first two rounds. The Ravens might consider using a pick on a running back in the third round, where they have two picks (79th and 99th overall), or fourth round (138th overall).

ESPN draft analyst Steve Muench's top picks in the middle rounds are:

  • West Virginia's Sims: "Doesn't have great power but sudden with quick feet and outstanding in the passing game."
  • Boston College's Williams: "Minimal production in passing game, and to a lesser degree, injury history, are concerns. As a runner he's a battering ram, and he shows deceptive speed when he gets a seam."
  • Towson's West: "He's a tough, hard-nosed runner who has flown under radar at Towson, and it would be a great story if he ended up staying in Maryland. If they can get him late fourth he could prove to be a steal."

Running the ball has long been a foundation of the Ravens' offense, and it will be a big part of Kubiak's play calling. Over the past five seasons, only five other teams ran the ball more than Kubiak's Texans. Establishing a strong running game is his blueprint to set up the play-action pass.

The importance of a running back in Kubiak's offense can't be overstated. That is why the Ravens have to make it a priority to draft a running back this year, whether it's for a contingency plan in 2014 or an investment for the future.

No one expected the Ravens to take a running back in 2008, when they drafted Rice in the second round. Six years later, it would be a surprise if the Ravens didn't draft his potential successor.

Buffalo Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes became the first NFL player to publicly criticize Ray Rice since the Baltimore Ravens running back was arrested for allegedly striking his then-fiancee unconscious.

Spikes' criticism began after he learned that Rice and Janay Palmer were married Friday, one day after Rice was indicted by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault.

Spikes tweeted: "That’s him trying to save his image duh"

Spikes said that he got mad when he saw the TMZ video showed Rice lifting Palmer by her arms out of an elevator and laying her on the floor. Rice's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, has said the footage is authentic but incomplete.

That led to Spikes tweeting: "I don’t see how anyone can respect him. Put your hands on a woman. The woman that had ur child"

Spikes then tweeted: "Someone should choke him out. See how he likes it."

The Ravens and the Bills don't play each other in the 2014 regular season.

It was not too long ago when Rice was the one criticizing another NFL player. In 2011, Rice had some harsh words on Twitter for Hines Ward after the former Steelers wide receiver was arrested for drunken driving, saying a DUI charge is "not a good look."

Rice hasn't posted anything on his Twitter account since Feb. 12, three days before his arrest.
IRVING, Texas -- While we have discussed the long-term futures of Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, one player we have not touched on much is DeMarco Murray.

Murray is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns, and catching 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. When Murray has played well and been given a chance to carry the ball, the Cowboys have won.

But running backs’ values have dropped dramatically in the past few years. If they aren’t Adrian Peterson, they don’t get paid the mega deals. And the guys that have been paid in recent years, like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, have taken a downturn.

In 2008, the Cowboys signed Marion Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million in guarantees.

Those days are long gone.

The best free-agent deals for running backs so far have been to Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart, who received three-year, $10.5 million deals from the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Brown has never rushed for more than 645 yards in a season. Gerhart has never rushed for more than 531 yards, though he was playing behind Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno is joining the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $3 million deal after rushing for 1,038 yards in 2013 for the Denver Broncos. Rashad Jennings received a three-year, $10 million deal from the New York Giants after rushing for 733 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders.

Murray had his best season in 2013, but he missed two games and has yet to play a full season. But his advisors have to see how the market is going for running backs. There wasn’t a running back taken in the first round last year. The top running back chosen in 2012, Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall), was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Murray will make $1.406 million in 2014 as part of his rookie deal.

The Cowboys could lock him in for another three seasons at a good number and still have plenty in reserve for Smith and Bryant.

Each time Ray Rice's situation gets more serious, what hasn't changed is the Baltimore Ravens' stance with their starting running back. They're not just supporting Rice. They're aggressively doing so.

An hour after a grand jury indicted Rice on third-degree aggravated assault for allegedly striking his fiancée unconscious, the Ravens released a statement that read: "We know there is more to Ray Rice than this one incident.”

The Ravens didn't have to say anything. They could've left it as this is part of the due process. But, as with every step in this embarrassing matter -- from his initial arrest to the TMZ video of him dragging his fiancée out of the elevator -- the Ravens have made it clear that they're standing by Rice.

A cynic would say the Ravens are sticking with Rice because they would lose $5.5 million in cap space by cutting Rice. I believe the Ravens are keeping Rice based on how he conducted himself in the community since joining the Ravens in 2008.

Are the Ravens wrong in doing so? Coach John Harbaugh best explained the team's reasoning on Tuesday: "The thing that’s really important is to be able to support the person without condoning the action."

The Ravens have never said Rice is innocent. They're backing the one-time model citizen who made a mistake, albeit a very serious and public one.

"If everybody was one-strike-and-you're-out, then we'd all be in trouble," owner Steve Bisciotti told ESPN at the NFL owners meetings on Monday.

Bisciotti indicated this week that Rice has a future with the team, and Harbaugh reiterated that the three-time Pro Bowl running back will be part of the team this season. No gray area here. Of course, this is predicated on whether he will be allowed to play.

This is no longer a simple assault. This is now a felony that carries a potential penalty of three to five years in prison, although someone with no prior record could receive probation, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Even if Rice isn't convicted, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can fine and suspend him under the league's personal conduct policy. Goodell said Wednesday that the league is monitoring Rice's situation.

Rice's next court hearing hasn't been scheduled. But, whatever happens next, you can expect the Ravens to be standing beside Rice.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants running back Ray Rice to be 10 pounds lighter than last year's playing weight.

Rice suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 2, and the injury led to the Pro Bowl running back putting on some weight. According to Harbaugh, Rice weighed as much as 217 pounds last year. The Ravens would like Rice to play at about 207 pounds.

There have been reports that Rice has worked hard this offseason to shed pounds and is close to that targeted weight. The Ravens believe Rice will benefit from the team's new cross trainer coach.

"We talked about some of the stuff that we’ve done with our training program to try and lean him up a little bit," Harbaugh said. "He’s under 210 right now. I’d like to see him around 205, 207 [pounds]. That’s where he was his first couple of years, and then he crept up to about 212 in the Super Bowl year. It was still good for him. He was still very explosive. And then last year through the injury, he got up to at least 217, which was just too big.”

Rice rushed for 660 yards last season, his lowest output since becoming the Ravens' featured back in 2009. He only had one run over 20 yards last season after having five such runs the previous season.

The Ravens are hoping that Rice will bounce back with fewer injuries and fewer pounds.

"He tried to fight through it the whole year and he was probably good enough to play, but not good enough to excel," Harbaugh said.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- All of the AFC coaches met with reporters Tuesday morning, and here are the highlights of the hour-long breakfast with Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh:
  • Harbaugh acknowledged he was surprised when owner Steve Bisciotti offered him a one-year contract extension last month.
  • Ray Rice was as heavy as 217 pounds last season, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens would like Rice to be around 207 pounds this season. Harbaugh reiterated that Rice "will be part of our team."
  • Harbaugh was very strong on three player arrests in a month span were "unacceptable."
  • Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been brought in to be the starting center. Harbaugh talked with Gino Gradkowski, last year's starter, to break the news.
  • The plan is to start Kelechi Osemele at left guard, which is where he is most comfortable. But, depending on what the Ravens do in the draft, Osemele could still play right tackle.
  • As of right now, Rick Wagner would start at right tackle. Wagner was a fifth-round pick from last year. Of course, the draft could change this.
  • Asked how the Ravens would replace defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the starting lineup, Harbaugh talked about starting Brandon Williams alongside Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle. He also mentioned using Kapron Lewis-Moore as well.
  • Harbaugh has been "disappointed" in how backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has played, but he said Taylor's best football is ahead of him. Given that Taylor has one year left on his contract, the Ravens are looking at quarterbacks in free agency and the draft.
  • Joe Flacco has workouts scheduled with his receivers, but Harbaugh doesn't know when they will occur.
  • Harbaugh said the Ravens aren't done in free agency. "I think we're actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents," he said.
  • In terms of tight ends, the Ravens have Owen Daniels and Ed Dickson on their radar.
  • The Ravens are looking to extend the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith. The team will pick up the 2015 option on Jimmy Smith in May.
  • Harbaugh is in favor of expanding the replay system. He likes Patriots coach Bill Belichick's proposal of having everything subject to a coach's challenge.
  • The Ravens haven't talked to inside linebacker Rolando McClain about a potential return. Harbaugh, though, said he would welcome McClain if he can help the team. It depends on how hard McClain is working and how much he has matured, Harbaugh said.
  • Harbaugh said the Ravens will have a tougher and more physical training camp this year because his players are younger.
  • The seventh-round pick acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the trade for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is for the 2015 draft, Harbaugh confirmed. It was originally reported it was for the 2014 draft.

Another arrest, another black mark on the Baltimore Ravens' image.

The arrest of backup offensive lineman Jah Reid on two misdemeanor battery charges was the third involving a Ravens player in 22 days. That is nearly one per week since the middle of February.

Embarrassing? Without question. Have the Ravens become the NFL's bad boys again? You could make that argument.

All you have to do is bring up Ray Rice's TMZ video and the mug shots for Reid and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Some will say it's unfair to put that label on the Ravens because two of the three players are backups and might not be on the team when the 2014 season kicks off. But the casual football fan will remember "three Ravens arrested in less than a month" and not the names of those players.

The Ravens have made significant strides to repair their image since the days of Ray Lewis pleading guilty to a obstruction of justice charge in a double murder and Jamal Lewis going to jail on a federal drug charge. I remember going to games in 2005 and seeing fans at opposing stadiums wearing orange jump suits with the name "Lewis" on back of them.

Coach John Harbaugh made it a focus to make over the Ravens' bad boy persona, even going as far as shelving the all-black uniforms to avoid "playing into everyone's stereotypical thinking." In Harbaugh's first six seasons, only four Ravens had been arrested. None were starters, and linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested before even putting on a Ravens uniform.

Even though there has been a spike in arrests, it's hard to blame Harbaugh, because he can't be following 53 players to Atlantic City or Florida. It's also difficult to blame the Ravens, because Rice, Thompson and Reid had never been arrested before in their NFL careers. It's not like you can accuse the Ravens of keeping repeat offenders.

But it's hard to alter the national perception when the headlines have been about another Ravens player arrested. Bad news is bad news. This was already going to be a challenging offseason for the Ravens, who were coming off their first non-winning season under Harbaugh. The Ravens have to rebuild their offense, part of their front seven on defense, and now their image.

The Ravens were atop the football world a year ago as Super Bowl champions. Now, it feels like their image is at the bottom of it.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome sounded Saturday like a decision-maker who is willing to give running back Ray Rice a second chance.

"Right now, I feel very good about his side of the story, but I also feel very good about what he's done since that to help himself to not allow himself to get in a situation like that one again," Newsome told reporters at the NFL combine.

Rice was arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a physical altercation with his fiancee early Saturday morning at an Atlantic City casino. No court date has been set.

Based off what Newsome said, this could be the Ravens' stance with Rice going forward: He wasn't in any trouble before the incident, and he's proactive in making sure he stays out of trouble after the incident. Coach John Harbaugh told reporters Friday that Rice and his fiancee are "committed" to working out their issues through counseling. Rice is talking with director of player development Harry Swayne every day, Newsome said. This shows the Ravens aren't distancing themselves from Rice.

Newsome never claimed Rice was innocent when asked about the running back five times in his 13-minute media session. "I don't know whether a different story is going to come out," he said.

Newsome also never said Rice would get cut, even when asked whether a video came out showing Rice striking his fiancee. "We will allow the league to take its position before we would take any," he said.

Obviously, Newsome is concerned about the situation and acknowledged the TMZ video, which shows Rice lifting his fiancee out of an elevator, "doesn't look good."

But the Ravens don't appear to be ready to part with Rice. On Friday, Harbaugh said he expected Rice to be part of the team in 2014. A day later, Newsome said he is pleased with what Rice has done since the incident. Two days, two signs of support.

"Up until we get all of the facts, we will let the process run its course," Newsome said.
The Baltimore Ravens have been in this same situation before. Each time, they stood by their player, whether it was Ray Lewis facing double-murder charges in 2000 or Jamal Lewis going to jail on federal drug charges.

Despite the Ravens' history, I honestly didn't know if they would be as supportive with running back Ray Rice. Why? Brian Billick was the head coach during the ordeals with Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis. This time, it is John Harbaugh, the same coach who worked so hard to change the Ravens' bad-boy image. And right now, even though Rice has not been convicted of any crime, he's seen as the bad boy in the NFL by many.

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJohn Harbaugh was supportive of Ray Rice in the coach's first public comments since Rice was arrested.
In his first comments since Rice's arrest for simple assault, Harbaugh was as supportive as any head coach could be considering the circumstances. The toughest question, of course, is whether there is a scenario where he could see Rice not being part of the Ravens in 2014.

"Not that I'm aware of," Harbaugh told reporters at the NFL combine. "I haven't seen anything that would remotely make me think that."

Yes, Harbaugh wisely didn't paint himself in a corner with Rice. But remember, he didn't have to talk about his star running back getting arrested. He had no obligation to speak to reporters at the NFL combine because general manager Ozzie Newsome is scheduled to do so Saturday morning. Instead, Harbaugh said he hasn't seen anything that would "remotely" make him think of cutting ties with Rice, a statement that won't sit well with people who wanted Rice released after what transpired this week.

First, there was the TMZ video posted Wednesday morning that shows Rice lifting the woman, who looks limp, by her arms out of an elevator at the Revel Casino. His attorney said that the footage is authentic but incomplete.

Then, there was the police summons released Wednesday afternoon that stated Rice struck his fiancee with his hand, rendering her unconscious. On Thursday night, there was a report from saying police have a yet-to-be-released video of Rice knocking out his fiancee.

Harbaugh spoke to Rice on Monday to get his explanation of the incident. Again, he could've given a "no comment" or "we're keeping it between us" when asked about their conversation. He not only touched on Rice, but his relationship with his fiancee, Janay Palmer.

"Ray and I are real close," Harbaugh said. "We have been for a long time, so it's an easy conversation to have. I love Janay. She's a great person."

Harbaugh added, "The two people obviously have a couple issues that they have to work through, and they're both committed to doing that. That was the main takeaway for me from the conversation. They understand their own issues. They're getting a lot of counseling and those kinds of things, so I think that's really positive. That was the main takeaway."

Sure, the situation can change if this case is tried in actual court, not the court of public opinion. I also understand the Ravens would prefer not to cut Rice because they would have to take a $5.5 million salary-cap hit to do so. But, based on Harbaugh's comments, there is going to be no knee-jerk reaction. The Ravens are going to patient, just like they've been in the past.

Jeremy Hill is ready for NFL

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
BRADENTON, Fla. -- In our final installment of features on guys who prepared for the scouting combine at IMG Academy, we turn to LSU running back Jeremy Hill.

We'll see how he does in the workouts, but it’s clear this is one smart guy. Hill came out of college early and his reasoning for that decision is very solid.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Hill
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJeremy Hill is projected to be among one of the first running backs taken in May's draft.
"If I played any other position, I would have come back for another year," Hill said. "But with the running back position with the wear and tear and the shelf life, I thought it was best for me to come out now. I didn't have any serious injuries, so I thought it was best to come out now."

Hill’s right that the shelf life of running backs isn’t that long. He might as well get into the NFL as quick as he can. And it didn’t hurt that an advisory board projected him as a first- or second-round pick.

Hill could be the first running back taken, according to many draft gurus. He views himself as NFL ready after working with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former NFL coach, at LSU.

"Coach Cameron put me in a great position and I’m proud of my production," Hill said. "He had an opportunity to work with Ray Rice and LaDainian Tomlinson. He always talked about those guys and was always comparing their every-day habits and the way they practiced to mine. And he was always telling me what I needed to do to get to their level."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pretty well set at running back with starter Doug Martin and backups Mike James and Bobby Rainey. But, if Hill is the best player on their board at any given time, anything is possible.

"The one surprising thing is he’s got great hands," IMG Academy director of football operations Chris Weinke said. "We see it every day out here. He’s big and strong and he’s quicker than I thought he would be at 235 pounds. He’s a load coming downhill. I think you could utilize him in a lot of different ways at the next level. I think he has the ability to run inside and outside and you can use him in the passing game. Whoever drafts him is going to get a good all-around running back who is ready to play right away."
No one knows what the status of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is for the 2014 season until his legal issue is resolved. But even if he is still playing for the Ravens this season, which Rice is the team getting: The playmaker who totaled over 1,600 yards for four straight seasons or the plodding back who averaged 3.1 yards per carry?

Before Rice's arrest for simple assault, the Ravens' decision-makers publicly supported Rice in terms of him bouncing back from the most disappointing season of his career. ESPN's Matt Williamson, a former NFL and college scout, has his doubts.

"He is a tough evaluation and I am very anxious to see what he looks like in the preseason," Williamson said. "But wow, was he bad last year. Was it just the hip injury? I tend to think we have seen the best of Rice overall and I am not sure he is a great fit in this [Gary] Kubiak scheme either. While he is a great receiver, he is a liability in protection too often and he has logged a ton of touches going back to the heavy workload he had at Rutgers."
The court appearance for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been postponed. A new date has not been set.

Rice was due to appear in an Atlantic County courthouse Tuesday after being arrested and charged for simple assault.

The postponement comes after the police department requested the prosecutor's office get involved in the case. This will allow the prosecutor's office to review the charges.

Rice and his fiancée were both arrested for simple assault after an incident early Saturday at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J. According to a police summons, Rice struck his fiancée with his hand, rendering her unconscious.
The Baltimore Ravens face a tough decision in how to handle running back Ray Rice's domestic violence incident, which has gone from a simple assault to a summons indicating the running back knocked his fiancée unconscious.

If the Ravens stand by Rice, they're going to face increasing pressure from fans and negative media attention to cut him. If the Ravens cut Rice, they will lose a significant chunk of their salary cap, which will derail some of their offseason plans to bounce back from last season's disappointing 8-8 season.

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Doug Kapustin/Getty ImagesRay Rice rushed for 660 yards and four TDs this past season.
The Ravens are in a lose-lose situation with Rice.

In most instances, teams gain salary-cap room by cutting a player. But, the way Rice's contract is structured, the Ravens would lose $5.5 million in cap space by parting ways with Rice because of the pro-rated bonuses that would have to be absorbed. To put that in context, that $5.5 million is more than what the Ravens saved when they signed linebacker Terrell Suggs to an extension Monday.

The Ravens could designate Rice as a post-June 1 cut, which would create $4 million in cap space in 2014. The problem is, Rice would count $9.5 million in dead money in 2015, which is a large chunk for a player not on the roster. Anyway you look at it, the Ravens lose a significant amount of cap space if they decide to cut him.

Let's make this clear: As of Wednesday evening, no one from the Ravens organization has insinuated that Rice is getting cut. There has been no anonymous sources speculating that Rice is on the chopping block.

Some fans have asked about a "moral clause" that would allow the Ravens to cut Rice without taking a cap hit. That is unrealistic. The other 31 teams in the league aren't going to let the Ravens have a pass because a player was arrested. Do you think the Ravens would allow the Steelers to cut a player without suffering the cap consequences just because that player was arrested? No.

The Ravens have never rushed to judgment on a player. They kept cornerback Samari Rolle and Suggs on the team during their domestic violence cases. General manager Ozzie Newsome told reporters Monday that Rice is still a big part of the team's plans in 2014, although he did say a final decision won't be made until he gets all of the answers.

Even if the Ravens stick with Rice, he could face discipline from the NFL. Under the personal conduct policy, the league has fined and suspended players who haven't been arrested. The fact that Rice has never been arrested previously could work in his favor.

Rice is coming off his most disappointing season, averaging a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry. This upcoming season was considered a make-or-break one for him. Now, the Ravens might have to think about the future a little sooner.

As Rice deals with the incident, the Ravens are at the NFL combine. While there is no easy way to part ways with Rice, team officials need to take a look at whether there are any prospects who can replace him.
The Baltimore Ravens are still projecting Ray Rice as their starting running back, three days after Rice was arrested and charged in an altercation with his fiancee in Atlantic City.

Neither general manager Ozzie Newsome nor coach John Harbaugh have talked to Rice but one will likely do so over the next day.

"When I left my office 20 minutes and John been in there 15 minutes before then, Ray Rice was still a big part of what we plan to do in 2014," Newsome said Monday.

The Ravens released a statement Sunday, saying Rice and his fiancee returned home together after being detained.

"I don't know the situation. I've only gotten what has been written," Newsome said. "I've not had a chance to talk to Ray. I really don't the situation. Up until I get all the answers, then that's when we make decisions within this organization."

What's going on with Ray Rice?

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17

What's going on with running back Ray Rice?

That is what every member in the Baltimore Ravens organization has to be asking after hearing Rice was arrested and charged in an altercation involving his fiancée at an Atlantic City casino. This is the most important offseason of Rice's NFL career, and he's making headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Rice was statistically one of the worst starting running backs in the NFL last season. While offensive line struggles played a major part in Rice's disappointing season, he lacked the same elusiveness from previous seasons.

If Rice needs a reminder, owner Steve Bisciotti had this to say about him after the season: "I think he'll come back with a vengeance ... and if he doesn't, then we'll be making a tough decision next year, probably."

The owner is telling Rice that he gets one more year to prove himself. So, what does Rice do five weeks later? According to Atlantic City police, Rice and his fiancée "struck each other with their hands."

Rice is definitely on the team for the 2014 season because the Ravens don't clear any salary-cap room even if they did release him (and no team official has insinuated this). What Rice is playing for is his $3 million salary in the final two years of his deal (2015 and 2016). If he struggles again this season, the Ravens can make Rice a June 1 cut and gain $3 million of cap space in 2015.

Let's recount Rice's past six months, which have been the toughest stretch of his career:
  • Not only did Rice have the worst season of his career, he had statistically one of the worst seasons of any starting running back. His average of 44 yards rushing per game ranked 32nd in the NFL, and his 3.1 yards per carry were the lowest of any back with at least 200 attempts. Rice finished with one run over 20 yards. After the season, Bisciotti said Rice "learned that adding 10 pounds to his frame made him less elusive, not more powerful."
  • Along with the questions about his decline, Rice also took a shot to his reputation. Rice was accused of spitting on Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor during a Sept. 15 game. "I had my mouthpiece in, so when I went to say something back to him it looked as if I projected toward him," Rice said. He wasn't fined by the league because the video was inconclusive.
  • It was difficult for reporters to believe anything Rice had to say about his hip injury. He insisted that he was back to full strength in the middle of October, but he acknowledged later in the season that the injury has continued to bother him. After the season, Rice expressed regret about playing through the injury.
  • Rice's curious absence in the first half of the season finale remains a mystery. In a game that the Ravens needed to win to reach the playoffs, Rice played only two series in the first half, the first one and last one. "I really can't explain that adequately, in all honesty," coach John Harbaugh said. Five days after the season ended, the Ravens announced running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery would not be returning.
  • The latest trouble with Rice occurred on Friday night, when he was arrested and charged with simple assault. This is the first known arrest for Rice, who is one of the most active Ravens players in the community and has led an anti-bullying campaign in the Baltimore area.

Rice is only 27, but he just completed his sixth NFL season after a lot of carries in college. There has been talk about whether Rice is done as a premier back in this league. Going forward, all of his focus should be on convincing the Ravens that he can be the Ray Rice from previous seasons and not the one from recent months.




Sunday, 2/2