PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Former Ravens and Rutgers running back Ray Rice attended the Scarlet Knights' spring game Friday night and spoke to the team at the request of coach Kyle Flood.
Rice was back at Rutgers for the first time since he was suspended by the NFL for punching his then-financee and now wife last year. He was on the sideline for the intra-squad game at HighPoint Solutions Stadium, hanging out with other former Rutgers stars such as Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu and 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis. Rice acknowledged fans who called out encouragement to him by waving and pointing toward the crowd.
Rice has not played in the NFL since being suspended after he knocked out Janay Rice in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February. He declined an interview with The Associated Press saying, "I'm always working," when asked if he was working toward getting back in the NFL. Rice is currently a free agent.
Rice told NJ.com it was good to be back at Rutgers.
"It's very nice. It feels like home," he said. "It feels good to come back to a place where I had so many good memories. I only want to remember the good, but I want to reflect on the things I've been through and give it to the guys."
Flood said he reached out to Rice and asked him to speak to the team.
"The message was very simple," Flood said. "You can do a lot of great things in your life. You can do charitable works at home and the cities you're working in, but if you make the wrong decision, you're going to have to be accountable for that. And Ray made a wrong decision and he's held himself accountable to it. And he's paid the price for it.
"I thought today was an opportunity for him to deliver a message to try to prevent one of our young people from doing that in the future."
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Rice told NJ.com he came with a life lesson for the players.
"I just shot them straight," Rice told NJ.com. "I'm sure if you speak to them, they'll give you a lot better explanation of what I told them, but I gave them the message to go out there and not make the mistakes that I made. If I can help them understand, then I've made an impact. It costs no money to give them a good message like that."
Rice is maybe the most accomplished player to ever play at Rutgers. He is the school's career leader in rushing yards with 4,926 from 2005-07 and he ran for 6,180 yards in in six seasons with the Ravens.
Rutgers defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said Rice is "god over here" at Rutgers and it meant a lot to the players to hear from him.
"He was just re-iterating the message that the decisions that you make in life can make or break you," Hamilton said. "He really cares about us. He really cares about the players in the program making the right decisions.
"We were all very thankful to see him and hear his message. He was very sincere about everything that happened."
Hamilton added: "I think we all make mistakes. I think everyone deserves a second chance."