"That's a critical element," said former NFL counsel David Cornwell, who doesn't represent Rice but previously represented Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and former Ravens wide receiver Donte' Stallworth in league disciplinary matters. "Filtered through Roger's prism, he may think that you're attacking him through the appeal. Still, there's clearly a path back into the NFL. The question is: How do you separate these kinds of circumstances from the public outcry? Ray is in a tough situation, but he has rights, and that's an important thing to remember and protect."