Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson dominated the headlines in the 2014 NFL season, but not because of their performances on the field. After the Baltimore Ravens' running back was forced to sit out the whole year and the Minnesota Vikings star played just one contest, a lot of questions remain unanswered about their futures in professional football.
Rice was initially suspended for the first two games of the year because of the incident between him and his wife in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. The Ravens released him and commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely, once the video of Rice punching his wife became public. Rice won his appeal to be reinstated in Week 13, but he remains unsigned.
Peterson still has a long battle ahead of him to get back on the field. He received an indefinite suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy, relating to the charges he faced in his child abuse case. Having played just one game in 2014, Peterson appealed the suspension, but was denied. He has three years left on his contract, guaranteed to make over $46 million.
While Peterson won’t have a chance to be reinstated until April 15, 2015, he might have a better chance of playing in the NFL than Rice next season. The Vikings running back was widely considered the best player at his position at the start of the year, having won the MVP in 2012 and rushing for 1,266 yards in 14 games last year. Rice is free to sign with any team that will have him, but his declining numbers might make teams less willing to take on his extra baggage.
The 2013 season was, by far, the worst of Rice’s career. After rushing for at least 1,143 yards in four straight seasons, the running back totaled just 660 yards on 3.1 yards per carry. In his previous five NFL seasons, Rice had never averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry.
Rice’s poor performance could have been explained by an injury. The running back battled through a hip injury, and it’s possible that a year of rest could help him come back even stronger. When Rice won his appeal, ESPN reported that at least four teams, including the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, were interested in acquiring him. However, he’s still looking for a home.
If Peterson is eligible to play in 2015, which he likely will be, there’s a good chance he’ll remain with the Vikings or find a team willing to sign him. Peterson became so angry when he lost his appeal, though, that he said he might look towards other options. The 29-year-old told ESPN he might retire and attempt to compete as a sprinter in the Olympics.
Both players have been hurt financially by the suspensions. Rice had three years and $10 million left on his contract, before being released, and the $3.5 million he was set to make in 2014 wasn’t guaranteed. Peterson was paid close to $8 million this season, before being officially suspended on Nov. 18, and he lost approximately $4.1 million of his 2014 salary. Peterson also claims he lost $4 million in endorsements.