Exiled NFL running back and current free agent Ray Rice is training for a comeback—and it appears the Cleveland Browns staff has considered signing him, head coach Mike Pettine told Sports Illustrated on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Rice hasn’t played a down on the gridiron since December 2013. And sure, Pettine and the Browns could use the services of the All-Pro back, especially after Cleveland ranked 17th in the NFL in total rushing yards last season. But Rice also has personal connections with the Ravens staff: Current Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery coached Rice to three Pro Bowl berths in Baltimore for Rice's first six years in the NFL, and Pettine was the Ravens' outside linebackers coach in 2008.
"Of course it's a natural question here because of Wilbert, and because I was with Ray when he was a Ravens rookie and know a lot of people in Baltimore," Pettine told SI.com's Don Banks. "Obviously Wilbert was his position coach for Ray's first six years in the league. I'm not going to say it didn't come up in discussion, but at this point we're not there yet."
Montgomery has taken issue with the lack of desire eminating from his trio of running backs, Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke Johnson. Montgomery told ESPN that "nobody wants the role" on his current roster.
Rice has spoken with multiple teams over the last year, who have gauged interest in signing the exiled star. If it came down to it, Pettine made it known Rice’s possible signing would be based purely off looking at him as a football player first, before having confronted character issues.
“I don’t think it’s gotten to that point, to say, ‘Hey, I’d kind of be comfortable with it’,” said Pettine. “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?”