Why Ray Rice will never play pro football again

The NFL wants nothing to do with Ray Rice. He’s toxic now, and for good reason. And because they’re a good business partner, the CFL won’t take him either. Nobody’s complaining, aside from maybe Rice himself (not publicly, mind you) and the few Rice apologists left on that burning bandwagon.

But talented NFL players have returned after committing crimes arguably as heinous as Rice’s. If players can bounce back after drowning dogs, sexually assaulting women or killing pedestrians with their vehicles, you’d think Rice might also one day have a chance to redeem himself on the football field.

Not going to happen.

Two reasons. First, this incident has become too high-profile. The new domestic violence guidelines might as well be coined the Ray Rice Rules. This and the Aaron Hernandez case have jumped from the sports page to news and pop culture sections, and as a result both men will be blackballed for life.

Second (and sadly, most importantly), Rice is a 27-year-old running back who will be — at a minimum — 28 before he’s eligible to return, and he’s got 1,799 touches on his resume. With little tread left on those tires, his yardage totals have plummeted each of the last two seasons, and he’s coming off a year in which he had the league’s worst yards-per-attempt average (3.1) among backs with at least 200 carries.

Rice’s play has declined steadily. His best days are behind him, which isn’t surprising considering his age and position. Backs have short shelf lives and the Baltimore Ravens know it. They’d never admit it, but sadly, those circumstances likely played a role as the team weighed the pros and cons before releasing him.

So it’s not cut-and-dry. In a perfect world, we’d have seen that gruesome video and agreed that Rice deserves to have lost the privilege to play NFL football. History will one day romanticize the fact that 32 teams are about to give Rice the cold shoulder indefinitely, but this is about business as much as it’s about morals.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.