Regardless of which side of the negotiating table one sits on, You hear these words often in NFL circles: “It’s just a business.”
Players use these words as a shield to defend their sometimes-excessive demands to the adoring public who indirectly pay their salaries. Owners and general managers use those words to justify not paying a fan favorite player market value while managing the game’s lifeblood – the salary cap.
Yet in most businesses you are forced to make tough decisions and sometimes those decisions fly in the face of financial logic. Some choices have an intrinsic value that can’t be measured monetarily and the associated difficult-to-quantify goodwill is worthy.
Such is the case with the new Ray Rice deal — a deal that any sportsbook review would have listed as an extreme long-shot early yesterday afternoon.
If you strip out the emotion, Ray Rice playing two consecutive seasons as a franchised player makes sense. These next two seasons are likely to be his most productive as a Raven. After that Mother Nature and Father Time take over and the bodily wear and tear begins to rear its ugly head on the field.
That sudden burst isn’t quite the same.
The change-of-direction skills are more rounded and not quite as sharp.
A clear path to the end zone comes to an abrupt end – halted by a tackle from behind.
And when that happens the Ravens will be looking for the next Ray Rice because the odds are the current one will not be performing to the value of his contract.
Such is the nature of the typical NFL running back beast.
But Ray Rice is anything but typical. If you wanted to create the perfect NFL player off the field chances are he’d be wearing a purple No. 27.
Does he stay in shape? Check.
Is he a good teammate? Check.
Does he possess leadership skills? Check.
Is he a solid organizational spokesperson? Check.
Does he stay out of trouble off the field? Double Check.
Is he engaged in the community? Triple Check.
Yesterday it was reported by the Ravens official website that Rice’s agent Todd France said that the former Rutgers Scarlet Knight was brought to tears after signing his new deal because with his signature he completed a pledge he made to his Mom.
How can you not be moved by that?
The contrarian will point to the history of Rice’s position and suggest that we not forget that the average life expectancy of a running back is less than 4 years.
2012 will be Ray Rice’s fifth season in the NFL.
Clearly Ray Rice isn’t typical, average or ordinary. Can he perform to the level of his new contract throughout the five-year term? If he doesn’t the Ravens could have a significant cap problem in the future.
Clearly that’s a possibility, but like his namesake Ray Lewis, Rice brings something more than on-the-field performance, key third-down conversions, 100-yard rushing games and touchdowns. He’s a role model, a table-setter, an example to not only his teammates but to youngsters who aspire to be like him.
Ray Rice in many ways has become not only the benchmark for what it means to Play Like a Raven, he’s the benchmark for what it means to Live Like a Raven.
Yes football is a business but sometimes the bottom line really isn’t always about the bottom line.