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Ex-teammates hope Rice receives another chance to play

Several Ravens players have remained in touch with former teammate Ray Rice since his release from the team and have expressed hope that the running back will get a chance to resume his NFL career.

When former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones' ruled Friday that Rice should be immediately reinstated, one of Rice's closest friends predicted that he'd make the most of his second chance.

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"Second chances are only as good as you make them," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said on his Twitter account Friday. "My boy will do the right things."

Smith has been one of the leading voices on the Rice situation in a locker room that has tried to walk the line between supporting their teammate, while not condoning his actions. Rice struck his then-fiancee and now wife, Janay, in an elevator of an Atlantic City, N.J., casino. The video of the incident surfaced on Sept. 8, resulting in Rice's release and an indefinite suspension by the NFL.

Earlier this week, Smith acknowledged that he still had a close relationship with Rice and wanted to see him get another opportunity to play.

"I don't like what he did, but I don't hate him," Smith said. "We live in a country where you are supposed to truly get second chances and our judicial system is based on that. It's supposed to be, at least. It's not always that way. But [I hope] he gets a chance to redeem himself and show people who he really is, because that guy on that tape made a bad decision."

Ravens veteran defensive end Chris Canty, who has been an active spokesman against domestic violence, spoke for many of his teammates in September when he said, "I hate the sin, but I love the sinner."

Canty, the Ravens' player union representative, said Rice is worthy of a second chance.

"I think we're a country that believes in second chances," Canty said. "America's game should reflect that. I think that, hopefully, there will be an opportunity for him. I think there should be an opportunity for him. Certainly, he's had his day in court with the legal process and that's run its course with the appeal hearing. I do think he should have a second chance in the National Football League."

On the field, the Ravens have moved on from Rice as veteran running back Justin Forsett has experienced a career rebirth. His 903 rushing yards rank fifth in the NFL and he also has seven rushing touchdowns.

But the players have still been asked periodically about Rice while his appeal and legal situation was playing out. Second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk acknowledged this week that he's stayed in touch with his former teammate via periodic text messages.

"I would love to see Ray play again," Juszczyk said. "I wish the best for him. He knows he did wrong. He feels bad about that. You've got to move on to the next challenge."

Rice struggled mightily during the 2013 NFL season, rushing for just 660 yards and averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per carry while dealing with conditioning and injury issues. But he arrived to this year's training camp in optimal shape, getting down to roughly 205 pounds.

Before being suspended indefinitely, he showed some flashes of his old form. Sources close to Rice indicate that he's worked out regularly and stayed in shape during his suspension.

"Ray is in great shape," Juszczyk said. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a great football player."

Still, there remain significant questions about whether another team will be willing to give Rice a second chance in the face of the outside scrutiny and criticism that such a move would cause.

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That chance certainly won't come from the Ravens whose owner, Steve Bisciotti, has also said that Rice won't play for the team again. But Rice's former teammates hope that he'll get an opportunity elsewhere.

"Everybody deserves a second chance, man," safety Darian Stewart said. "I just hope he gets it. Everybody makes mistakes. We're all human. He deserves that chance."

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