Nov 5, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Suspended NFL running back Ray Rice (right) with his attorney Peter Ginsberg arrive for his appeal hearing on his indefinite suspension from the NFL. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY
What kinds of teams might be willing to sign Ray Rice for the remainder of the 2014 season now that he has won his appeal and is eligible to return NFL action? Hard to say for sure, but you’d have to include clubs in playoff contention whose running backs have either been injured or have underperformed, such as the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers. If not for the emergence of rookie Jeremy Hill, you might also have to include the Cincinnati Bengals in that group.
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A few weeks ago when Giovani Bernard went down with a hip injury, the Bengals were already in disarray and seemed to be squandering a strong start to the season. With little to lose and even less choice, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson inserted Hill as his featured back and watched the youngster run up two 150-plus-yard games in three weeks while Bernard recovered. With Bernard back in the lineup last week, Hill continued to pound, picking up 87 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans.
Bernard, appearing mostly healthy, rushed 17 times for 45 yards and caught two passes for another 22 yards.
Even before Bernard went down, though, Hill was showing that he had promise as and NFL runner. In eight games, he ran 50 times for 195 yards and three TDs.
Still, had Hill shown anything less than superstar potential when Bernard was on the shelf, the temptation would have been great for the Bengals to snatch up Rice after today’s announcement. It’s the type of move that Cincinnati has made often in the Marvin Lewis era, and just because they’ve made the playoffs three straight years doesn’t mean they’re above making that kind of stretch again.
After all, Rice was a bona fide franchise back with the Baltimore Ravens, and his signing would have created all kinds of buzz. Of course, a good deal of that buzz would have been of the negative variety, and any team that brings Rice on board has to be prepared for the circus that will come along for the ride.
“Missing out” on Ray Rice is just another thing that Bengals fans can thank Jeremy Hill for this season.