Ray Rice's dream of playing in the NFL again is probably over. His story, however, may be able to help other players keep their dreams alive.
Rice spoke to the Baltimore Ravens' rookies last week, the latest action of an abuser who came to understand his actions. Unlike Greg Hardy or Ray McDonald, Rice has not only accepted responsibility for his domestic-violence incident but is adamant about opening up about it.
"[Rice] delivered an important message that included his story, both the good and the bad," the Ravens said in a statement. "He clearly had the attention of our rookies."
Whatever positive message that Rice brings should in no way diminish what happened in February of 2014, when he hit his future wife, Janay, in an Atlantic City elevator. But that horrific night doesn't have to be the final word in his narrative. Since then, with the help of counseling and court-mandated anger-management classes, Rice has dedicated himself to turning a cautionary tale into a lesson.
Over the past four months, Rice has talked to youth groups and the football teams at Rutgers, his alma mater, and Western Michigan, where a former Rutgers assistant is the head coach. More NFL teams should follow suit. If the Ravens can invite Rice back after their acrimonious split, others in the league can do so as well.
Young players in the league likely have seen or know about the video of Rice knocking Janay unconscious 28 months ago. They'll understand the consequences when listening to Rice.
A Pro Bowl career was over before he was 30. Millions of dollars in salary and endorsements were lost. And his legacy of community service in Baltimore, including his anti-bullying campaign, was completely tarnished.
"I totally understand what my visual did and the effect it had on society and the survivors of domestic violence," Rice told ESPN last year. "So, for me, to never be forgiven ... I understand those things, and I totally take full responsibility for my actions. The one thing I can say is ... I have made a lifelong decision to raising awareness about this. I used to have a situation where kids were like, 'I wanna be like Ray Rice.' And now I have to think about kids and parents saying, 'I don't want you to be like Ray Rice.' And that haunts me."
It wouldn't be surprising if Rice became more involved in player development for the Ravens. Even after the release of Rice two years ago, owner Steve Bisciotti talked about bringing back Rice to "to steer these guys from young men to grown men."
If other teams believe Rice can connect with their players, there can be an opportunity for Rice to be a difference-maker again -- not as a running back but as a speaker, mentor and a walking life lesson.