PFT- Smith told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN that Rice, who is not suspended and is eligible to play as soon as a team signs him, would be back in the NFL if teams were willing to give him a fair chance.
“This, unfortunately, is a league that has a history of blackballing players. I find it hard to believe that a player of Mr. Rice’s caliber hasn’t at least gotten one offer from a team to come work out,” Smith said.
The term “blackballing” suggests something underhanded, but the reality is that NFL teams aren’t hiding the fact that they simply don’t want to do business with the man who last year became the poster boy for domestic violence in America. That’s the prerogative of each team, and while the union is free to advocate on Rice’s behalf, there’s not much the union can do about it.
I know this may come as news to a lot of you but when you are an NFL running back there is really no good time to knock your wife unconcious. However, there are certainly times that are worse than others. When you are coming off a terrible season and showing signs of aging is just about the worst possible time you could choose to get caught on video turning an elevator into a scene from Mike Tyson's 'Punchout'. Do I think Ray Rice is being blackballed? It depends on your definition of the term. He's being blackballed in the same way most 28 year old running backs without a lot of tread on their tires are blackballed. Running backs are a dime-a-dozen. Just look at the recent success of underrated free agents. The fact of the matter is if a team thought Ray Rice could help them win even one more game he wouldn't still be on the outside looking in. Look at Ray McDonald. Look at Greg Hardy. Hell, Frank Clark was drafted into this league, by a team that has gone to back to back Super Bowls, amidst domestic abuse allegations.
The main question when it comes to players that have had run-in's with the law is "are they worth the trouble?". That's the question with a lot of fringe NFL players. Was Michael Sam blackballed for being gay or was his play on the field not worth the dog and pony show came with it? Do we really think that Tim Tebow wasn't capable of making an NFL roster at a multitude of positions or was he 'blackballed' because of the media circus that would inevitably come with him? I don't think Ray Rice is being blackballed. I just think he has a much higher hill to climb than the average backup running back. All things considered every single team in the league would much rather have a hungry 21 year old out of college with something to prove than a 28 year old distraction.
Even if Rice were being blackballed. You know who cares? NO ONE. I'm a Rutgers fan. I was a Ray Rice fan. If he doesn't end up back in the league it's on him, not the league. The best way to not get blackballed is by not giving your wife a black eye. Yeah, it was only one incident. No, I don't think Rice is a serial wife beater. However, you have to pay for your sins. If that means you pay with the rest of your career then so be it. With great power comes great responsibility. Don't expect sympathy from anyone else. If this were any other profession this wouldn't even be an argument because no organization would speak out on behalf of a known domestic abuser. Ray Rice may get another shot in the NFL or he may not. It certainly isn't going to happen in May when there is nothing but off the field news to overreact to. Either way, there isn't a team in the league that owes Ray Rice a damn thing, and if he doesn't end up on an NFL roster it has just as much to do with his present abilities as it does his past transgressions.