I don’t buy it. Not even a little bit.
I just don’t buy the idea the Cleveland Browns are even remotely considering going after Ray Rice. The same Ray Rice who’s become an NFL outcast thanks to his notorious domestic violence incident last year and the nightmarish mishandling that followed. The same Ray Rice who, despite being reinstated to the league last November, hasn’t heard a single peep from any team interested in signing him.
The whole thought process just seems ludicrous, like something the Browns wouldn’t even give a moment’s worth of contemplation to. Which makes coach Mike Pettine’s comments from today even more confusing when he was asked about potentially signing Rice.
“We’ve talked about it, but I don’t think we’re there at this point,” Pettine said.
Of course, even with the caveat included at the end of his comment, it didn’t stop speculation from running wild across social media. Would Cleveland ever actually get “there?” Would the Browns literally get to a point where they’d see Rice as a viable option, despite the full-scale media chaos it would bring upon the team?
No. Just no.
Now, sure, there have been growing concerns regarding Cleveland’s situation at running back. Earlier this week, backs coach Wilbert Montgomery took his players to task for not stepping up and fighting for the starting job. Returning players Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have shown signs of potential, but Montgomery was quick to note he hasn’t seen much from them in camp.
So, why wouldn’t Cleveland leave no stone unturned, right?
Well, when it comes to Rice, that’s a stone the Browns need to leave where it is. And they preferably need to stay as far away from it as possible.
Remember, coaches and players alike have been raving about how nice it is to have a calm and quiet training camp as opposed to the media bonanza they saw last year thanks to Johnny Manziel. No longer has everyone had to practice under the heat of hundreds of cameras. The team hasn’t had to sidestep tricky questions about particular players’ personal lives.
Obviously, the Browns know bringing in someone like Rice would take all of the tranquility the team has been so thrilled about and decimating it.
The amount of media craziness the team would be bringing upon itself by acquiring Rice would be immeasurable. Think Manziel Mania, but at a whole different level. While Rice has gone on to apologize for his heinous offense, it still doesn’t erase the harrowing images of it from many people’s minds. As a result, Cleveland would face heavy scrutiny, no matter how many people believe in second chances.
All of the sudden, things would go back to the way they were last year, with players who barely know a specific teammate having to answer questions about his personal life.
Surely the Browns have considered this. I’d like to think that’s why they haven’t gotten farther than just discussing the matter.
Personally, I don’t think the team has put much weight into the idea of bringing Rice in. To me, this wreaks of more fire under their current roster of running backs.
Clearly the coaching staff isn’t thrilled with the output they’re receiving from players like West and Crowell. Per Montgomery’s comments, nobody seems too eager to try and step up to be the lead back. His remarks were obviously used as a way to let them know the team is not psyched with their camp performance.
The same could go for today’s quote from Pettine.
What better way to tell players “we don’t think you’re playing up to full potential” than to openly admit you’ve thought about bringing Rice in from NFL exile? You’d like to think a player hearing he could potentially be replaced by such a lightning rod of controversy would certainly be all the motivation needed to get his act together.
At least, I hope this is what Cleveland’s plan is. I hope they’re only using this as yet another shot at their current backs, telling them that their current lack of effort will not be tolerated, and the team would be willing to replace it with an incredibly controversial player.
Do I believe in second chances? Sure. For all I know, Rice may have earned one.
For the Browns’ sake, I hope he earns it with another club.