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Ray Rice hasn't received a second chance because he's not good enough anymore

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Some players get second chances, but Ray Rice's poor 2013 season is the real reason why no team wants to give him another shot.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Second chances don't come often in the NFL. Teams are willing to overlook a checkered history and give another opportunity, but only if the player's play on the field is high enough to allow executives and coaches to look the other way.

Ray Rice's last game was in December 2013, but he finished the day with just 15 rushing yards on six carries. Less than two months later, he was arrested for domestic violence which earned him a two-game suspension. It wasn't until video of him knocking his then-fiancé unconscious was released that his suspension was extended. He was then released by the Baltimore Ravens. He hasn't been on an NFL roster since.

No video exists of the incident that earned Greg Hardy a 10-game suspension, although that ban was reduced to four games upon appeal. Would Hardy have received a second chance from the Dallas Cowboys after he was released by the Carolina Panthers if video of his incident existed? We can only guess, but the difference between the two players goes beyond the circumstances of their domestic violence incidents.

Rice, 28, has 1,430 career carries under his belt and, while that career includes three trips to the Pro Bowl, he also had a significant drop-off in play in 2013, finishing with just 3.1 yards per carry, his career worst. Hardy, 27, has significantly less tread on his tires and finished with a career-best 15 sacks in 2013 before spending 15 games on the commissioner's exempt list in 2014.

While not all situations are equal, it's value on the field that has made the difference for decision makers. What is the level of play that will allow for a second chance?

For Hardy and Junior Galettewho has domestic violence accusations and a drama-filled tenure with the New Orleans Saints in his past, second chances came quick. Galette only had to wait a week for Washington to sign him after he was released by the Saints.

For Rice, a team will likely have to be in severe need at running back for him to ever play in the NFL again. Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine didn't rule out the possibility of Rice joining the team at some point, although he said that's a question for a different time.

"I don't think it's gotten to that point, to say, ‘Hey, I'd kind of be comfortable with it,'" Pettine told Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. "But I think it would get to that point if we arrived at it from a football standpoint, then asked that question. Instead of working the process backwards. Why bother with asking the question if the need never presents itself?"

Need has been present in a few cases, but Rice still hasn't received the call. When Arian Foster went down with a groin injury, the Houston Texans brought in Pierre Thomas, Ben Malena and Joe McKnight for tryouts, although the team elected not to sign any of the three running backs.

Former New York Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali didn't have to wait long either for his second chance after he punched Geno Smith and broke the quarterback's jaw. Just a day later, he was claimed by the Buffalo Bills. With two tackles and 40 regular season snaps on his career résumé, it was a surprising move -- but at 24 years old, he's young player with pass-rushing potential.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter which player committed the most egregious act. The NFL forgives players who can contribute and be difference makers.


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