By Andrew R. Koch
The worst season of Ray Rice’s career has been followed by a tumultuous off-season. However, he’ll avoid jail time, and is still getting support from his head coach and general manager.
After averaging a career-low 3.1 yards per carry, thanks largely due to poor play by the Ravens offensive line, Rice and his then-fianceé (now wife) Janay Palmer were arrested on February 15 after getting into a fight in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. TMZ and several other media outlets picked up on the video from a surveillance camera that showed Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator. They were both charged with simple assault. On March 27, a grand jury in Atlantic City dropped the charge against Palmer, and elevated the charge against Rice to third-degree aggravated assault. A day later, the couple got married. Spousal privileges allow Palmer to refuse testifying against Rice if the case goes to court. However, the case isn’t likely to see much, if any, time inside a courtroom.
At his arraignment in Cape May on May 1, Rice entered a plea of not guilty to the aggravated assault charge. He applied for entry into a pretrial intervention program that allows some defendants, especially first-time defendants, to avoid formal prosecution. If his application is denied, prosecutors in Atlantic County say they’ve offered Rice a plea bargain that would allow him to go on probation without having to go to jail. Under the deal, he’d also have to go through anger-management counseling. It’s uncertain at this time whether or not Rice will be suspended under the NFL’s personal conduct policy. If he is, he may likely only get a short suspension because of his reputation off the field.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says while he is disappointed in Rice, he’s continues to express his support for his starting running back. Harbaugh has repeatedly pointed out Rice’s work in the greater Baltimore community, and how he’s never had an off-field incident prior to February. General Manager Ozzie Newsome says the uncertainty surrounding Rice won’t affect the Ravens’ plans for this week’s NFL Draft. However, on April 4 the Ravens signed Justin Forsett to a one-year deal to add depth at the running back position. Forsett had six carries for 31 yards in nine games last year with Jacksonville; and he has also accumulated 347 carries for 1,692 yards and eight touchdowns in his six-year career. In 2012, he played with Houston for then-head coach Gary Kubiak, who’s now the offensive coordinator for the Ravens.
Ravens 2014 Schedule
The NFL released its 2014 schedule on April 25. The Ravens’ season will begin with games against each of the team’s three AFC North rivals. The Ravens will play Cincinnati at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, followed by Pittsburgh four days later on “Thursday Night Football.” The Ravens will travel to Cleveland on September 21, and will close out September at home against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Baltimore has two other nationally televised games on the schedule, in addition to the Thursday night game in Week 2. The Ravens will be at Pittsburgh for “Sunday Night Football” on November 2, and in New Orleans for “Monday Night Football” on November 24. This season, Baltimore will play every team in the AFC South (Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee) and the NFC South (Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay). The other 13 games will all begin at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, subject to the NFL’s flex scheduling.
The Ravens solidified the tight end position by agreeing with Owen Daniels on a one-year contract on April 3. Daniels was drafted by Houston out of the University of Wisconsin in 2006. Last year, Daniels played in only five games before a broken fibula ended his season. Injuries have limited him to 11 games or less in three of the last five seasons. However, Daniels played in 15 games in both 2011 and 2012. The signing reunites Daniels with Kubiak, and he’ll be instrumental in helping the Ravens offensive players learn Kubiak’s system. When healthy, Daniels has proven to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL.
The signing of Daniels helps cushion the blow at tight end that came less than a week later. Ed Dickson signed a one-year deal with Carolina. Published reports say that the Ravens had lost confidence in Dixon over the last couple of seasons, but at 26, he’s still young enough to turn his career around. Dickson is the Ravens’ fifth free agent to sign with another team, joining defensive tackle Arthur Jones (signed with the Colts), offensive tackle Michael Oher (signed with Tennessee), cornerback Corey Graham (signed with Buffalo), and strong safety James Ihedigbo (signed with Detroit).