Ray Rice wants back into the NFL, and on Mike Lupica's podcast Tuesday he said all the right things to make you think he's a different person than the one who has been viewed as too toxic to bring into a locker room.
Rice, 29, continued to take responsibility for his mistakes, he refused to criticize the NFL for its questionable handling of his 2014 suspension and he declared himself physically in shape to play running back at a high level again.
He also opened up about the depression he suffered after a devastating series of events in which he punched his future wife, was effectively blackballed by the league and became the villainous face of domestic violence in America.
"I didn't know if it was worth living anymore, and to this day it lets me know I took major leaps," Rice told Lupica, who asked him to clarify if he considered suicide during his darkest times.
Rice said he won't be at peace unless he plays football again, but said family is now his top priority. He chalked up his 2014 conflict with his then-fiancee Janay Palmer to not being available enough in the relationship. Problems festered, he said, because he was too consumed by football to deal with them.
Lupica, a longtime sports columnist who started his podcast in May, took a sympathetic tone with Rice, who hasn't played a down since the disappointing 2013 season that preceded his infamous bout with violence. Lupica notes that plenty other players have received second chances for their indiscretions, but Rice hasn't because his incident was filmed and became public.
Other highlights from their 50-minute chat:
>> Rice praised Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and their relationship, calling Newsome a father figure and someone he cares about beyond football. He said he talks to John Harbaugh occasionally.
"As much as Ozzie Newsome is a general manager – and I get very emotional when I think about this – he was like a father figure to me when I was there," Rice said. "I was Ozzie's guy. ... I want Ozzie to look at [me] as a son and embrace me. And whether I play for Baltimore or not, me, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, Steve Bisciotti, everybody in that organization we've had a lot of great times together. … I'm always going to be a part of that community for the rest of my life. ... That is still home. That place embraced me like no other place has. The fans have embraced me. But [Ozzie's] the only exec that really genuinely would send a text or call just to say, 'How you doing?'"
>> Rice said he hadn't watched highlights of himself until last week, when he met with a USA Today reporter (the big takeaway from that story is that Rice said he's willing to donate his game checks to charities focusing on domestic violence prevention and awareness). Rice said it was emotional watching his old self perform well on the field.
>> Rice spoke to the Ravens rookies during minicamp and has been invited to speak various other places, including the University of Georgia this week. He said he knows his story won't save everyone, but believes it will save some.