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How Ray Rice could be reinstated to the NFL within a month

Could Ray Rice end up as a Colt or Patriot in 2014?
Could Ray Rice end up as a Colt or Patriot in 2014? (Getty Images)

Former Ravens running back Ray Rice remains suspended indefinitely following the publication of the video of him striking his now-wife, Janay, in a casino elevator, but he could be reinstated within the next four weeks, sources said.

An appeal hearing date has been set, with a final decision expected to come in an expeditious manner thereafter, and all of that could be resolved by mid-November, which would conceivably allow Rice to sign with another team this season.

Perhaps, even if reinstated, teams will find him too controversial to sign, but there is every expectation his playing status will be resolved before the NFL's investigation into its handling of his case, being conducted by former FBI chief Robert Mueller, is completed.

Former U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones is handling the appeal as a neutral, third-party arbitrator, and all sides in the case have agreed to a date to conduct the hearing in the near future. That date could change somewhat based on what Jones rules this week on some requests the NFLPA made to have certain materials available to them in discovery, but sources said Rice's legal team has made it explicitly clear it has no desire to wait until the NFL and the NFLPA's investigations are concluded to resolve the matter of this suspension appeal.

Rice has maintained he did not lie in his testimony to Commissioner Roger Goodell, and his legal team will make the case that even under the NFL's new domestic violence policy, and as a first-time offender, Rice should be suspended a maximum of six games, which has already passed. Furthermore, they will make the argument that the video tape of Rice's actions were available to the team and the league throughout the process of determining his discipline, and thus nothing changed whatsoever with the case from the time Rice was suspended two games, until eventually being suspended indefinitely, save for TMZ obtaining and posting the video.

Numerous legal experts I've spoken to believe Rice has an exceedingly strong case, and, considering it could be Week 10 or so before this hearing is resolved, it's hard for them to conceive that Rice isn't reinstated by Jones as part of her decision. If he is, would a team like the Colts, coached by former Ravens assistant Chuck Pagano who thinks highly of Rice, or New England, where Bill Belichick has very strong ties to Rice's college coach, Greg Schiano, take a chance on Rice if they need a running back down the stretch?

We just might find out.

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