A future in the NFL is very much in doubt for running back Ray Rice after the Ravens terminated his $35 million contract Monday hours after a video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancee in February at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also suspended Rice indefinitely after previously suspending the three-time Pro Bowler for two games for a violation of the NFL personal-conduct policy stemming from the felony aggravated assault case.
Rice was in Maryland on Monday and is distraught and concerned about his uncertain outlook after being fired from his job and punished for the second time by the NFL, according to sources. Until Monday's series of events, Rice had been eligible for reinstatement as soon as Friday.
"Ray could get blackballed," said former NFL agent Joel Corry, who covers the business of football for National Football Post. "We may have seen the last of him. He's essentially radioactive at this point. This doesn't compare to Aaron Hernandez or Rae Carruth, but it's a very ugly situation. In any other job and you do something like this, you're getting fired. At some point, a player becomes so unpalatable for public consumption that you have to cut ties."
NFL teams were informed Monday that Rice isn't eligible to be signed. Meanwhile, the Canadian Football League announced that its teams will honor Rice's suspension and not attempt to sign him to a contract.
When asked if he believes Rice will play again, Ravens coach John Harbaugh replied: "I don't know. I don't have any expectations for anything right now."
How the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons handled an ugly situation involving quarterback Michael Vick is instructive.
In 2007 while Vick was playing for the Falcons, he pleaded guilty to federal charges involving the murder and torture of dogs through his involvement in a massive dog fighting ring. He was suspended indefinitely, served time in a federal prison.
Vick was also required to reimburse the Falcons for $19.97 million of his $37 million bonus after an arbitrator ruled that Vick had breached his contract, agreeing with the Falcons that the NFL star had known he was engaging in illegal conduct and used the bonus money to fund the dogfighting operation.
Vick was released by the Falcons in 2009, got out prison that year and was then mentored by former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy. Vick signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and was reinstated by the NFL.
Vick got involved in supporting the Humane Society and has remained out of trouble since the dogfighting episode.
"It's hard to know what all the teams are going to do as far as Ray Rice goes," said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, an NFL Network analyst. "I think there will be a period of time where he's out of the league. Some teams won't touch him, period. We would have done that if a player in college had any kind of domestic violence incident like [former St. Louis Rams and Nebraska running back] Lawrence Phillips.
"When a player makes a mistake, does his time and takes measures to correct himself, then they could be back in the future. Michael Vick is an example of that. Not a lot of people were interested in signing Michael Vick. There's also the question of his football skills and conditioning."
Whether Rice plays in the league again will depend largely on the discretion of Goodell, whether an NFL team wants to take him on and absorb the public-relations fallout and how much and how effective Rice is at rehabilitating his image.
Rice previously said he and Janay Palmer, now his wife, were going to become advocates to help domestic violence groups at the appropriate time.
"Ray's going to have to do something from a public-relations standpoint to rehab his image," Corry said. "He needs to work with a domestic-violence organization and do the equivalent of what Michael Vick has done. There's always going to be a segment of society that will never forgive Michael Vick, but Ray needs to become an advocate for battered women to have a chance to get back in the NFL."
The Ravens' decision to cut Rice carries financial ramifications.
The net effect for the Ravens' salary cap situation, having shed Rice's five-year, $35 million contract that included $22 million in guaranteed money already paid to him, is they're now $6.864 million under the NFL salary cap limit of $133 million.
Next year the Ravens will absorb a $9.5 million hit in dead money against the salary cap.
"The Ravens ripped the scab off financially by cutting Ray Rice," Corry said. "The public-relations aspect of this crushes Ray and the league, and I can imagine [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti and Roger Goodell had lengthy discussions about what needed to happen, but at least it eliminates the distraction from the team."