Ray Rice‘s NFL future has been uncertain since his domestic violence incident resulted in a season-long suspension last year. He was reinstated with time left in the 2014 regular season, but none of the 32 teams decided to pick him up for the home stretch or a playoff run.
Despite this, Rice is looking forward to free agency this offseason. He spoke to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun in a rare interview, to discuss the last year of his life as well as his plan going forward.
Here are some highlights from his conversation with Wilson.
On getting a second chance in the NFL:
“I’m optimistic that I’ll get a second chance. I don’t think this boils down to whether I can play football or not. Obviously I know that. I just think there’s so much more that comes with it. I know the PR side of it will be tough. I understand that. I just know that if a team that really truly genuinely looks at me and understood that this guy made a horrible mistake then they can structure a plan for me. I don’t like to be singled out, I like to be part of the team, if they can understand that I’ll do anything to help the situation and go out and give them the best football I got, I think I’ll get a second chance.”
On if he has good football ahead of him:
“I can vouch that. I need somebody else to put their stamp of approval on that.”
On taking a reduced role with a team in 2015:
“Whatever, I know that I can play all three downs. At the same time, I know the load of a running back. Whatever the situation is going to be, I just want to get on the field and contribute. If that door opens for me to be a primary ball carrier, I can do it. If that situation comes to me to do third down, run routes out of the backfield, I’ve done that.’
On what he would tell a coach or general manager interested in signing him:
“First off, I would own my mistake. I would tell them about my mistake. I would let them know all the steps I’ve done to become a better person and not figure everything out like I was perfect. I would tell them about my counseling. I would tell them about my wife. I can’t buy my wife, no matter what . I’ve known her since high school. There was no money that was going to appease her. If this was that bad of a situation, then my wife wouldn’t be with me and I know that and that would have crushed me more than losing football. I would just reassure them that the person that created this, that committed that horrible act of violence that’s not the person, that’s not who I am.”
On a bad 2013 season that diminished his playing value:
“I guess now because I’m a free agent, I don’t have any confidentiality, I can’t get in the doghouse for talking about my injuries, I had a Grade 3, rectus femoris tear (torn quadriceps) and I played the whole season with that. When I went down in Cleveland that was a pain I can’t even describe. I get told in the locker room that, ‘Let’s see, it’s a two to three week injury, but it lasted the whole year. I was basically playing with one leg and I’ve always taken the approach of never blaming anybody else. I was out there. I knew I wasn’t myself. I put myself out there. That’s what’s on the tape. If I had a chance to fend for myself, I would tell you I played through an injury I probably should have sat through. If a guy was suffering from a hamstring and that hamstring kept tearing that’s what I had in my leg, all the way from the hip flexor to the quadriceps.
“Basically, it would get better during the week. As soon as I would go out and play, I was basically re-tearing it. It would take me until Thursday to feel like myself knowing I had to get all taped up, put all kind of medicine in my body, it didn’t feel good. The reason why I played through it is I didn’t want to let my teammates down. They just felt like No. 27 is going to be out there and he’s going to make a difference. If you notice, the one game against Chicago that year, I only felt good running one way and that was to the left. Anytime I ran to the left, it was easy for me to point. If I ran to the right, I had to drag my leg. I didn’t like running to the right. So, I made that know. It was a very big deal. My strength was running to the left.”
On how he would have fared in Gary Kubiak’s zone running scheme in 2014:
“I got in the shape I got in because I just couldn’t take being told, ‘You were out of shape, overweight, lost a step.’ Where did this come from? I just made a Pro Bowl the year before. I had to keep my silence and take the criticism because I couldn’t talk about my injury. I was hurt. Last year was probably primed to be one of the best seasons of my NFL career in that offense. Justin Forsett is my guy, we have a great relationship, but I was primed to have one of the best seasons of my career.”
On the possibility of playing for the Steelers:
“It’s safe to say I would play for anybody right now. I know Baltimore wouldn’t like it, but I would play for anybody right now. You think about the applause and I played in front of 70,000 people. I just want to play for pride now. I want to win the respect of a locker room. I want to show these guys that no matter what they got somebody in their corner that’s going to be there for him.”