The New England Patriots suddenly have a need at running back, as Dion Lewis (torn ACL) will miss the rest of the season. Lewis was having a stellar season for the Patriots, rushing for 234 yards, catching 36 passes for 388 yards and accounting for four touchdowns (two rush, two receiving) in seven games.
With Lewis sidelined, might the Patriots look to add a running back off the street? Maybe someone like, say, Ray Rice?
Rice, of course, hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013 following a domestic-violence incident with his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay Palmer in February 2014. Would the Patriots accept Rice into their locker room?
“I don’t know,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “For us as players, so much of that is out of our control, especially that one. That’s a little different. I have a personal relationship with him. I played with him in college. He’s still a good friend of mine. Me personally, I would just love to see him get an opportunity anywhere in the NFL. But as far as the team, I don’t know. I don’t even really want to speak and and act like I can speak for the team. Bill (Belichick) and the other guys make these personnel decisions. That’s kind of out of my realm. But Ray is definitely a good friend, so I hope he does get back in the league somewhere this year.”
Rice was one of the best running backs in football from 2009 to 2012. In fact, he averaged 1,876 total yards and 9.8 touchdowns per season during that four-year stretch. In 2013, however, he averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry and finished with just 660 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
McCourty would vouch for Rice if management came to him and asked for his thoughts on signing the fallen superstar. There’s just one problem:
“Management doesn’t come to me,” McCourty said, laughing. “I’m just a guy. I’m a player on the team. But (Ray is) definitely a good friend and I will always have his back.”
In any event, the Patriots (8-0) are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL and have won four of their last six games by double digits, including a 27-10 win over Washington on Sunday.
The Pats have a tough three-game schedule upcoming, with a home game against the Bills (4-4) sandwiched between road games against the Giants (5-4) and Broncos (7-1). New England has a realistic chance of going undefeated, just as it did in 2007, but McCourt said the Pats aren’t focused on that.
“It’s really not discussed,” he said. “Really, after every game, I’m sure you guys see it, but Coach Belichick, he’s a real stickler. You watch the game and you see us have a good game and win by maybe two touchdowns, and we come in the next day and we hear about everything that we could have done (better). So when you’re trying to show Coach Belichick that we’re doing the right things, that we’re improving, you really don’t have time to think about being undefeated. I think we’re so fixated on trying to play perfect and get better each week, we don’t stop and even think about it. We just keep it going.”