Americans love a comeback — but only after a sufficient period of public penance. Has Ray Rice paid enough of a price yet to get people behind him? Winning an appeal of his indefinite suspension obviously doesn’t count, so the Rice family embarked this week on the comeback trail with an exclusive interview this morning on Today. Matt Lauer probed Rice’s initial public response, in which he never offered his wife Janay an apology, and Rice said that he and Janay had been coached to limit what they could say because of the legal proceedings that were ongoing at that time. Now, he says, “I have taken full responsibility for everything I did, and all I can hope for and wish for is a second chance.”
Lauer: We didn’t see a ton of anger on Janay’s face. We also heard her apologize and at that press conference we didn’t hear you apologize to her. And that upset a lot of people. Do you understand that?
Rice: Yes, I definitely understand that. The reason why that press conference was the way it was, was because we were still under legal situations. So there wasn’t much that could be said, but I’ll be honest, we were nervous, I was nervous, and that was the first time we were available to speak. And I made a horrendous mistake not apologizing to my wife.
We were given what to speak about. It wasn’t truly coming from us, if you can understand, but I made that clear in my last time I was able to speak that my wife is an angel. She can do no wrong. I take full responsibility for my actions.
Lauer also asked the biggest question — whether the elevator incident was a one-time episode or part of a continuing series of domestic abuse:
I truly understand that, and one thing you learn is that, we weren’t in a perfect relationship. No relationship is perfect. We’ve had arguments, but when you talk about abuse, that’s something that we know that we’d never cross that path. … That was just very uncharacteristic of myself. I take responsibility. That was very uncharacteristic.
Perhaps, but that’s a rather dramatic beginning to domestic abuse. The denial still raises the question about the level of sincerity now, too. Rice wants to return to the playing field, and thanks to the earlier responses of all in this story, the credibility level may still be too low to get NFL fans — or even players — to accept Rice back on the field. Lauer warns Rice near the end of the interview about the skepticism that will remain, and whether the family will be up to the scrutiny. Janay’s mother and father answer that they are prepared for it, but that in the end the family has to just live its life and hope that people see the positive results.
The question of Rice’s return may come sooner rather than later:
At least four teams have expressed interest in Rice, multiple league sources recently told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Two of those teams are the Colts and Saints, although neither team is expected to pursue him, sources told Schefter.
The NFC West-leading Cardinals also are not considering signing Rice, a league source told ESPN’s Ed Werder. Despite the hip injury suffered this past Sunday by starting running back Andre Ellington, the Cardinals have “no interest” in Rice, according to the source.
A source close to Rice told Werder that the priority is to have the three-time Pro Bowler signed with a team by this weekend.
Nothing happened over the holiday weekend, and at least for now it seems that Rice’s value is still outweighed by the backlash a team will get for signing him. Still, Rice’s case has now been addressed by the legal system and by the league, however imperfectly in both cases. He’s lost a considerable amount of money and has to complete his therapy and diversion-program requirements remaining from his plea deal reached in September. Should teams continue to shun Rice? Let’s take a completely unscientific poll on the question: