Yesterday, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine let it slip to SI.com’s Don Banks that Ray Rice is on his team’s radar. Reading Banks’ article got me thinking; the New England Patriots are an injury in the backfield away from being in a very dire situation at running back. Can you imagine Rice wearing Patriot blue?
If you look a little closer, you will realize that the backfields of the Browns and the Patriots aren’t too much different. Youngsters Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke Johnson make up a Cleveland running back group that isn’t exactly going to tear opposing front sevens apart.
Without LeGarrette Blount in the lineup, the Patriots are a bit undermanned at the position as well. The Patriots got a scare the other day when Blount fell in a heap, but he only sprained his MCL and should be good to go for Week 2 (he’s suspended Week 1).
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Blount isn’t the only Patriots running back on the injury report. Travaris Cadet, Dion Lewis and Tyler Gaffney have all been dealing with ailments, which prompted the Pats to sign undrafted rookie Tony Creecy.
I’m not saying the Patriots should go out and sign Rice right now. But should another running back go down with an injury for an extended period of time, it might be worth considering the embattled veteran.
Of course, associating with Rice is sticky business because of the whole domestic violence mess the running back was involved in last fall. But the Patriots have taken on troubled players before, and it’s not like they are the most adored team in the NFL right now anyway. Let’s just put it this way: the Patriots aren’t going to avoid Rice solely because of public relations.
It’s worth remembering that Rice had a terrible 2013 campaign, which is reason enough to not touch him with a ten-foot pole (he posted a career-low 3.1 yards per carry). But he still caught the ball well that year, and if Cadet or James White end up on the injury report for a long time Rice could fill the role of the pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here. I don’t think the Patriots should leap on Rice, but rather they should file away the thought as an option worth discussing if the injury bug persists in the backfield.