If you’re a fan of a particular National Football League team, you probably fall into one of two camps this time of year. Either you are gearing up for a late-season run that carries you into and through the playoffs, or you’re trying to figure out what changes your beloved franchise must make in order to return to relevance next season.
In either case, you might be tempted to get behind the potential wooing of either Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson to don your team’s uniform. Think about it: adding a prolific running back to your current team could equal major success in the weeks and years to come.
Rice is already eligible to sign a contract if your team decides to offer him one. Last week, an independent arbitrator overturned Rice’s indefinite suspension from the NFL because it violated the collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players’ union. As for Peterson, talks could resume this week concerning his possible reinstatement, but if his suspension were to be lifted, he would return to the Vikings’ clubhouse. That said, when April rolls around, it’s quite possible that Peterson could be put on the chopping block.
Naturally, NFL watchers are speculating about the future business address of both Rice and Peterson. For Rice, one source thinks Arizona and Indianapolis might be good fits for his abilities, given that both teams have postseason games in their sights and both had waiver claims out for Peterson’s position-mate Ben Tate. Another source floated Peterson’s name in the same sentence as Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, and Atlanta when the 2015 season kicks off.
It’s pretty easy to make the statistical case for bringing either Pro Bowler into your team’s fold. However, getting Rice or Peterson to join your franchise may not be in its long-term best interest. In fact, such a move might turn out to be a curse in disguise if you factor in all of the potential ramifications.
Here are ten reasons why signing Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice to your NFL team may not be a fabulous idea:
10. It May Create Problems in Your Team’s Home City
This is probably the most obvious drawback. Every city has battered women’s shelters, child safety advocates, and similar organizations who would howl if Rice or Peterson brought their talents to your team. In addition to the heated rhetoric that would be spread by activists and politicians who are opposed to the players’ actions, advertisers and community groups might feel pressured to sever their ties with your franchise in order to save face.
9. Neither May be in “Football Shape”
Sure, both Peterson and Rice have been keeping themselves physically fit even though they haven’t been practicing with a team. But as any NFL player or coach will tell you, there’s a substantial difference between “being in shape” and “being in football shape.” One rule of thumb is that a player needs as much as a month of formal practice to reach that level. So given that there are only four weeks left in the regular season, either Peterson or Rice would probably have to get back into the lineup before they’re physically ready to be there.
8. Both Have a History of Injuries
Rice suffered a hip flexor strain early last season without being touched, plus, he’s also dealt with dings to his ankle, thigh, and knee. And of course, Peterson tore the ACL in his knee in 2011 and even though he came back from it, knee injuries tend to recur once you suffer a big one. Also, Peterson’s legs have already survived groin, ankle, and hamstring injuries. Finally, there’s the fact that injuries tend to occur to players who aren’t in “football shape.”
7. They’re Not Getting Any younger
Sure, Peterson is 29 and Rice is 27, which sounds young. But given that the average retirement age for an NFL player is 30, the statistics aren’t on the players’ side. And there’s something else, Rice has been tackled almost 1,800 times in the NFL (not counting scrimmages, preseason games, or regular season plays nullified due to penalty). For Peterson, that figure is well over 2,200. No matter how tough you are, all of those hits eventually take their toll on your body.
6. It’s Going to Cost the Franchise a LOT of Money
Both of these guys were pulling in some serious bank before their off-the-field scandals. Rice was earning $8.2 million in 2014 with the Ravens, and the Vikings were allocating $14.4 million in cap money for Peterson (which was due to rise to $17 million in 2017). Granted, any contract offered to either player probably wouldn’t be that fat. But even signing Rice or Peterson for a playoff run will still tie up salary cap money that your team will have to scrape together from somewhere else on the roster.
5. The Team Will Face a Substantial Amount of Additional Distractions
First, there will be all of the “what do you think of a man like Rice/Peterson returning to your team?” questions, followed by the daily “how’s Rice/Peterson progressing?” queries, and then a host of other inquiries from non-sports media outlets trying to explore the “ex-wife beater/child abuser” angle. no matter how irrelevant it may be to your team’s situation. Dealing with the media, pundits,, and hothead fans can be a nightmare even in a normal season, but the addition of Peterson or Rice would multiply the number of distractions that the coach, GM, owner, and team would have to deal with.
4. The Running Back’s Teammates Will Face a Substantial Amount of Extra Scrutiny
Similarly, the lives of the rest of the players on your team would be scrutinized and dissected even more than they already are. There are lots of sports reporters who would love to break a story in the “first, Peterson/Rice, and now this (insert incident)” vein. And there would also be people who proactively attempt to bait these players into engaging in some nefarious behavior or making an inappropriate quote, just to get a few headlines (like paparazzi do with celebrities). Do your team’s players deserve that?
3. It Smacks of Hypocrisy, Given the Initiatives Being Promoted by the NFL
Remember, your team plays in the NFL, which tries to position itself as friendly to women (through its Breast Cancer Awareness Month events each October) and children (via its Play 60 campaign to encourage childhood exercise). If your team decides to be the one to sign a domestic abuser or extreme disciplinarian to its roster, it might be hard to explain to fans who see a disconnect between what the NFL promotes and what its teams actually care about.
2. It Would Erode the Concept of Player Accountability for his Off-the-field Behavior
For better or worse, Roger Goodell is taking action to hold NFL players accountable for their off-the-field behaviors. He’s trying to change the perception of a sports league which is commonly viewed as being indifferent to the sleazy activities of its players. After all, Michael Vick (dogfighting), Ben Roethlisberger (alleged sexual assault), Ray Lewis (obstruction of justice related to a murder), Leonard Little, and Dante Stallworth (vehicular homicide for both) all returned to play football again after their indiscretions. Any higher standard that Goodell is trying to set for player behavior would take a major hit if your team opened the door for Rice or Peterson to return to the league.
1. It Would Reinforce the Misplaced Priorities That Americans Have Regarding Athletes and Sports in General
Finally, there’s the oft-cited premise that America places too much emphasis on its sports teams and players – and that this emphasis tends to cloud people’s judgment. Sure, choruses of “I’d never hire a guy who beat his kid/pummeled his wife” would rain down o’er your franchise. But more importantly, paving the way for Peterson or Rice to play again could encourage fans of your team – and the NFL in general – to reexamine why they hold pro football and its athletes in such high esteem. And if Americans don’t like the answer they come up with, they’ll probably be more reluctant to shell out their hard-earned dollars for game tickets, jerseys, or team apparel. Which the NFL definitely does NOT want to happen.
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