We’ve all heard the oft-repeated credo of Ozzie Newsome – “Right player, right price.”
This mantra of sorts has become the compass for the Ravens front office as they manage personnel against the salary cap. The credo has been effective and it has even shown signs of maturity as the Ravens seem more willing to part ways with fan favorites like Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg because they no longer match up well with the credo.
But sometimes, as with most credos, guidelines or codes there are exceptions.
And one of those exceptions is Ray Rice.
Many believe that running backs are easily replaced. This combined with the fact that the position has a below average career expectancy might suggest that teams should not extend a back with four years of tread for an additional five years, particularly for $35M.
But Rice’s size allows him to avoid big hits that larger backs like Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson absorb. Defenders have to break down to tackle with good technique and during the breakdown process, players slow down and the resulting blows aren’t as lethal. So it stands to reason that Rice, like other past great backs of similar stature (Emmitt Smith comes to mind) just might push his career well beyond the average.
And average, both on AND off the field is a term you won’t apply to Ray Rice.
The former Rutgers Scarlet Knight freely gives of his time and financial resources to make a difference in the community. He has become through his actions, words and philanthropy the civic spokesperson for the Ravens. He hosts camps for kids; is a staunch advocate to help curb bullying; and clearly wears his heart on his sleeve.
Earlier this summer during training camp as the first team offense jogged to the sidelines after completing a session of 11-on-11 scrimmaging, Rice looked up into the small grandstands set up at the Under Armour Performance Center for the 250 fans who were invited on a daily basis. There he spotted a familiar face.
He was a young, delicate and beautiful boy (pictured above at Stevenson University) who proudly wore Rice’s No. 27 jersey. Rice shouted up to the young boy, “Don’t think I don’t see you up there!”
Shortly thereafter Ray made his way to the rope that separates the grandstand and the sideline area to say hello to the young boy and his entire family all sporting the same jersey. Rice held the boy, engaged in some small talk with the family, said his goodbyes and made his way back to the field.
In an era when such exchanges are usually set aside for scheduled autograph signings when there’s money on the back end for players, their agents or a memorabilia store, Ray Rice perhaps the most popular of all Ravens these days, is the one initiating the bond between a player and his fans.
And in the grand scheme of things, the price for Rice wasn’t just right, it was exceptional.