Monday, May 20, 2024

Rashee Rice didn’t have to be a warning for NFL players. The Chiefs WR became one anyway.

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Decisions, decisions.

Rashee Rice apparently thought it was no big deal to risk his world – and lives that included his own, and his reputation, and an NFL career, and tremendous sums of money – by recklessly racing on North Central Expressway in Dallas in late March.

And look at him now.

The 23-year-old Kansas City Chiefs receiver, who capped his rookie season nearly two months ago in the winner’s circle at Super Bowl 58, is facing eight felony counts stemming from his involvement in the multi-vehicle crash. The much-anticipated charges came down on Wednesday afternoon, with Rice given 24 hours to turn himself in to Dallas police.

What a shame.

If you saw the dashcam video of the crash, you know. Let the church say Amen. It’s a miracle that no one was killed when Rice, driving a leased Lamborghini Urus SUV, and Theodore Knox (believed to be an SMU football player), driving a Corvette registered to Rice, foolishly tried squeezing by traffic at a high speed along the left shoulder to ignite the chain-reaction collision that took out six other cars.

It’s also a pitiful reminder of how one bad decision – even if Rice didn’t have a monopoly on that in this case – can change the course of life. Rice could be sentenced to prison, with the charges including one count of aggravated assault, one count of collision involving serious bodily injury and six counts of collision involving injury.

Imagine how this resonates with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, given the controversy that flared in March when Missouri Gov. Mike Parson commuted the sentence of Britt Reid, the coach’s son and a former linebackers coach for Kansas City. Britt Reid served less than half of his three-year sentence in prison for his drunk-driving crash after leaving the team’s headquarters during the week of Super Bowl 55, which left 5-year-old Ariel Young hospitalized for two months and in a coma for 11 days. Reid will complete the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

The Chiefs haven’t commented on the situation involving Rice, but the NFL is obviously monitoring it against the backdrop of its personal conduct policy. A suspension and/or fine could follow.

But why? Rice’s attorney, Texas state Senator Royce West, confirmed during a news conference last week that Rice was behind the wheel of the SUV but suggested that his client shouldn’t be judged for one mistake. Sorry, but this was no slip-up that could be attributed to youthful naïveté.

For all the skill, dedication and health that it took for Rice to make it to the NFL – he progressed steadily last season and set an NFL postseason rookie record with 26 receptions – he was willing to gamble it away for the thrill of a freeway race? Makes no sense.

Even worse, Rice layered another bad decision on top of the initial choice. Rice, along with Knox and their passengers, quickly fled from the scene on foot. Amid the chaos after the crash, with vehicles spun out control and scattered wreckage, he walked away.

That was some kind of arrogance. Rice, and his companions, didn’t have enough concern or empathy to check on the innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time to absorb the collisions. And never mind the duty of exchanging insurance information at the scene. Just heartless.

One of the victims, Kayla Quinn, told WFAA-TV that her vehicle was hit by both of the racing cars, in the side and in the rear, with her 4-year-old son in the backseat. She described the trauma inflicted on her little boy; she said he shook uncontrollably for an hour. The next day, she said, the entire left side of her body ached. She also expressed gratitude that it wasn’t worse.

Rice issued a statement last Wednesday, maintaining, “I take full responsibility,” which undoubtedly will be addressed with whatever civil lawsuits or settlements could come.

West doubled down the next day by declaring that Rice will do “everything in his power” to help victims recover from injuries and recoup losses from property damage.

“He’ll make sure that he is responsible for helping them get through that particular part of this,” West said.

That was a rather surprising promise from a defense attorney. With charges inevitable at that point, along with video evidence and Rice’s acknowledgment to police of his role as a driver, it struck me as the type of statement one would make while trying to soften the blow from the serious criminal charges.

Rice’s actions at the scene, though, made a bigger statement. He walked away.

According to the police report, 10.8 grams of marijuana were found in the vehicles Rice was driving. A check for $16,500 was also left at the scene. And no, Rice didn’t bother to take his Chiefs playbook with him as he left the scene.

Before the Chiefs selected Rice with a second-round pick last year, you can believe they conducted the requisite background checks to get a sense of his character. It’s part of the draft process. No, a football team isn’t a collection of choirboys. Yet even the best personnel evaluators will admit that it can be difficult to project how some prospects will carry on after they’ve made the big stage.

I don’t know if there were any red flags with Rice or not. But what’s been revealed with his current mess is now on his resume.

It’s sadly ironic that for all the issues the Chiefs had throughout the season with the reliability and assorted gaffes from Patrick Mahomes’ corps of wide receivers, their drama-filled offseason would involve the emerging receiver who provided such a bright spot for the future.

If only it were a football error, like lining up offsides or dropping a clutch pass. Those types of mistakes didn’t stop the Chiefs from ultimately repeating as Super Bowl champs, with a third crown in five years.

This life-choice type of situation that Rice finds himself in is what they warn about in the NFL Rookie Symposium, and presumably what is addressed during the support program the Chiefs have developed for their rookies to aid in their transition.

So, here’s another teaching moment. You can make it to the NFL, yet that career can be threatened, ruined or completely gone in a flash by a poor decision. Rice is learning this lesson the hard way – with no one to blame except himself.

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