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Cleveland Browns mulling options to sign Ray Rice

Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine dropped a bit of a news bombshell recently when he proclaimed that the team is talking about embattled former Ravens running back, Ray Rice.

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Every so often, NFL teams are faced with the issue of whether they should sign a player who would become a lightning rod of criticism. Sometimes it's because of their play on the field, while in others it revolves around certain off-the-field issues. A few teams have decided to chart the treacherous waters of public relations nightmares that come with signing said players, such as the Jets with Michael Vick and, most recently, the Cowboys with Greg Hardy.

The Cleveland Browns seem to be thinking about diving into a similar situation themselves. Head coach Mike Pettine talked with media members on Tuesday and divulged information about the team kicking around the idea of signing former Ravens running back Ray Rice.

"Of course it’s a natural question here because of [Browns running backs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery], and because I was with Ray when he was a Ravens rookie (in 2008) and know a lot of people in Baltimore," Pettine said. "Obviously Wilbert was Rice's position coach for his first six years in the league (2008–13). I’m not going to say it didn’t come up in discussion, but at this point we’re not there yet."

There was much scrutiny not only given to Rice and the gruesome video that displayed his committing of domestic violence against his now-wife, but also how the league handled his subsequent suspension. Regardless, Rice didn't play at all last season, after three Pro Bowl berths in his first six seasons.

Aside from the public backlash coming from a Rice signing, a concern has to be lingering from the last time he played in meaningful games. In 2013, Rice suffered career-lows in most significant categories, including a 3.1 yards-per-carry average and a 5.5 yards-per-catch average. Along with being a good runner, Rice was a significant contributor as a receiver up until 2013.

The Browns' rode a potent running attack in 2014, paved by Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate. The three combined for 16 touchdowns and more than 1,600 rushing yards. The group faded down the stretch, as did the entire team, stumbling to a 1-6 finish in their last 7 games. Tate was released during the 2014 season and West has fallen out of favor a bit, growing the conversation about Rice to Cleveland.

Cleveland did select Duke Johnson in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft and have high hopes for him, but he's already has been ruled out for the first pre-season game with a hamstring injury. This news follows some open frustration the coaching staff has shown with Johnson's inability to practice because of the ailment.

It's also interesting to look back to 2014 when Pettine made comments regarding Rice following his domestic abuse investigation. "Yeah, I saw the video this morning. It was deeply disturbing especially as a father that has two daughters. There's just no place for that behavior in our society."

On whether he could coach a player who was involved in domestic violence, at the same time as the above comment, Pettine said, "You never want to talk in absolutes, but it would be real difficult."