Will Ray Rice Play Again This Year?

Could Ray Rice suit up and play again in the NFL in 2014? A new report, following the disgraced player’s reinstatement by the NFL, claims it’s a distinct possibility.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports at least four teams have expressed interest in Rice. Schefter claims Indianapolis and New Orleans were linked to interest in Rice but are not expected to follow through with a signing. The other two teams have not been identified.

Schefter linked an unnamed AFC coach to Rice, calling him a “good player,” but admitting to issues with signing a player this late in the season.

“Some guys learn faster than others. They just do. I don’t know what kind of shape he’s in. There are a bunch of different things. He’s going to have to get into shape, clearly because he hasn’t been hitting this year. You would think there would be some carryover… but he is a good player. He is a good player.”

Rice was originally suspended indefinitely by the NFL following the release of a graphic surveillance video in which he punched his then fiancé in the face, knocking her unconscious. In announcing the indefinite suspension, the NFL claimed at the time that Rice had not been forthcoming with accurate information at the time of their initial investigation.

As reported earlier this week by the Inquisitr, Rice was reinstated by the NFL following the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones. Jones was appointed to hear Rice’s appeal of the suspension and noted she did not feel Rice lied to the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.

“Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16 meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident was arbitrary.”

In a separate report, ESPN notes that Jones’ ruling on the Rice appeal paints commissioner Goodell in a poor light. Goodell and his team of lawyers apparently met to ensure they had their versions of the story straight but Jones didn’t buy it. Jones called out Goodell for vagueness and inconsistency in their case.

Now, Ray Rice is free to return to action on the gridiron. Rice is still somewhat persona non-grata and will almost assuredly bring a firestorm of controversy and protests to any team that deigns to sign him. Of course, in today’s win-at-all-costs sports world, it may just come down to whether the benefits of a playoff run outweigh the baggage that comes with signing Rice.

We’ll find out soon enough.

[Photo courtesy of NBC]