Unsigned for two years since the release of the horrific video of him punching his then-fiancee, Ray Rice says his second chance has come through his choice to speak out against domestic violence.
The former Baltimore running back still wants to resume his NFL career, and he doesn't begrudge Greg Hardy for getting the opportunity that he so far hasn't. Rice just wishes the former Dallas defensive end had used the platform of playing the same way Rice has tried to make amends.
"What I wanted to see him do with his second chance would have been a lot different," Rice said Wednesday after joining a Big 12 Conference-sponsored panel to discuss violence against women on college campuses.
"I would have loved to see him advocate and be a positive force and take the right steps going forward," he said. "I wish Greg nothing but success in life. I never wish bad on anyone. And I hope that he can take some steps to move in the right direction going forward."
Hardy's one season with the Cowboys didn't do much to quell criticism the team received for signing him after his domestic violence case in North Carolina. The former Carolina Panthers standout made light of the 9-11 attacks on Twitter, had an inappropriate comment about New England quarterback Tom Brady's wife and a physical altercation with a Cowboys assistant coach during a game.
After photos of Hardy's bruised ex-girlfriend were released, his production dropped significantly. Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones ultimately decided not to re-sign him after initially answering critics by saying he wanted to give Hardy a long-term deal.
The same week that the now-unsigned Hardy was arrested on a cocaine possession charge in a Dallas suburb, Rice made his latest appearance to discuss his life since the videos that derailed his career.
The first showed his now-wife, Janay Rice, being dragged unconscious out of a hotel elevator in New Jersey. The second showed the punch that knocked her out, leading to his release by the Ravens and an indefinite suspension from the NFL. That ban was overturned in court, but another team hasn't signed him.
A Super Bowl winner following the 2012 season, Rice played his last game on Dec. 29, 2013.
"I think the one thing I can take from it is I'm not out there saying I deserve a second chance," said Rice, who has 6,180 yards rushing in six seasons. "I used to have control over that, my playing days. But I know that's out of my control. And I think what I control now is how many people can I help, whether I'm playing or not."
Rice speaks to high school and college athletes, repeating his refrain that he spent too much time trying to be "the" man instead of "a" man. He says there are no excuses for domestic violence, alcohol or otherwise — lessons he says he learned with therapy and other conversations with experts on the topic. One of the participants at the Dallas session was Brenda Tracy, who has publicly taken her story of rape by Oregon State football players to teams including those at Baylor following the school's sexual assault scandal.
To those who question his motives, Rice points to his stable family life — his wife, 4-year-old daughter and infant son.
"I don't have a situation at home that's broken," Rice said. "I have a wife and I have a son and I have a daughter that have to grow up with their father, who made a terrible decision in life. And I have to explain that to them."
After the Big 12 panel, Rice was asked what he would say to Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was suspended for a year after punching a woman in the face in a restaurant but is in his second season with the Sooners. Mixon hasn't addressed his case publicly, and Rice said that's an important step.
While there is video of Mixon's incident, it hasn't been nearly as widely viewed as those involving Rice.
"The more I learned about it, it shouldn't take a visual to understand what domestic violence is," Rice said. "You have to get it. It shouldn't take a video. You're just taking full responsibility. And I had to learn that. It wasn't about the drinking and things like that. No, I was wrong. That's it."
And if that's not enough to get Rice back on the field, he's OK with it.
"I would know that I didn't give up," said Rice, who turns 30 in January. "You will never hear the words out of my mouth saying I gave up. I want to play football. I'm not going to say I don't. But I think me being here today is going to have a greater impact than any touchdown I'll ever score, or have ever scored."