Ray Rice Was Never a Realistic Option for the Detroit Lions


Wednesday, the Detroit Lions and their head coach Jim Caldwell dropped information that would be considered a semi-bombshell in the minds of many.

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Contrary to the wishes and hopes of many, Caldwell revealed at the NFL owners meetings that team wasn’t interested in signing free agent running back Ray Rice.

Now, it seems the book can finally be closed on that case entirely.

Given Caldwell had coached Rice in Baltimore and providing the Lions have brought in several former Ravens recently, the fit seemed natural to some.

But it was never that simple. Rice was never an option no matter how many people wanted to hope he was, and it wasn’t just thanks in part to his checkered past which cost him the 2014 season and might end up costing him another chance in the NFL altogether.

Since the beginning of free agency, many have expected the Lions to look at a running back considering the subtraction of Reggie Bush. To this point, they’ve only publicly shown interest in C.J. Spiller, who signed with the New Orleans Saints.

At this point, the Lions look more likely to add a runner in the 2015 NFL draft than in free agency, regardless of who’s left on the market. They’ve already hosted Georgia running back Todd Gurley on a visit, and can be expected to vet several other young backfield options in the weeks ahead.

Detroit’s come a long way since the checkered offseason of 2012, which saw multiple players acting out and in trouble with the law. Since, they’ve established the proper blend of accountability and veteran leadership in the locker room, have removed the personalities that don’t match and have managed to achieve a winning consistency as a result.

Detroit’s come a long way since the checkered offseason of 2012, which saw multiple players acting out and in trouble with the law.

They need young players who are humble, hungry and have proven to be good citizens. So far, they’ve laid a nice foundation here after walking the line in the past.

Why would the team risk that progress to add Rice now? It’s likely they can find someone better than Rice in the draft with more tread on the tires. Caldwell is right to think that Rice will get another chance (if Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald can land on their feet anyone can), but there was no room with the Lions.

At this point, the Lions couldn’t afford the distraction or the public relations risk. The franchise needs to focus on creating a winning blueprint first. They’ve already tried team building via the second chance route, and haven’t managed any success there. Within the cultivation of their new system and outlook, Detroit’s working themselves up to being able to justify being a second chance location in the future in certain cases.

It hasn’t happened yet, though, and the team’s not ready to assume the responsibility for someone as polarizing as Rice. Whomever takes the next chance on Rice will be dealing with a media powder keg the likes of which may never have been seen in sports.

The Lions? They just need to quietly continue winning football games with dignity. Having the circus of Rice would have distracted from that, which is why they were always wise to stay away.

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