STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The dual reality that is the National Football League continues on this Monday. We're fresh off another weekend of sometimes-dramatic games, and we're heading into a week in which the NFL's off-field troubles will command attention too. So we have news about people who did play over the weekend and people who didn't. Joining us now is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Steve.
INSKEEP: Let's talk first about the people who did play - the Patriots - pretty dramatic game against the Packers. You have Tom Brady, you have Aaron Rodgers and a kind of Super Bowl preview, people said, over the weekend.
GOLDMAN: Absolutely, two really good teams. The Patriots have been cruising behind Tom Brady in a strong running game and defense, and they have looked complete and primed for another championship run, but yesterday, exposed some problems in their narrow loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Pats's defense couldn't pressure Aaron Rodgers. For a second straight week, the Patriots's runners were held under a hundred yards. Green Bay's defense, which statistically is not that great, showed statistics sometimes don't mean much, and they did a good job. This is the new best team in the NFL, Steve, the Green Bay Packers for this week at least, and if this turns out to be the Super Bowl matchup, it's going to be a good one.
INSKEEP: Two teams that are 9 and 3 - caught a bit of that over the weekend. It was a great game. But let's talk about another game and a quarterback who did not play - Robert Griffin, RG3 benched for the Washington Redskins over the weekend, although it didn't do them much good, Tom Goldman.
GOLDMAN: It did not. They still lost to the Indianapolis Colts, although RG3's replacement, Colt McCoy, was good statistically in the loss to Indy, so good enough to probably keep the job. Remember, Steve, just a couple of years ago, Robert Griffin III was the second pick in the draft. He was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He led Washington to the playoffs. And then he's on the bench, and it's going to be hard for him to remain in Washington, D.C., a lot of people believe, because it's hard to come back after your coach has publicly said, you're not a very good quarterback and you need to work on your fundamentals.
INSKEEP: OK, Tom Goldman, I have to ask about Ray Rice. If people weren't closely following the news over the weekend, they might have missed the news dropped Friday night that Ray Rice's suspension has been lifted, meaning that if he can find a team willing to take him, he can come back to the NFL after being caught on videotape beating his fiancee, now his wife. And he's going to begin by going on the "Today" show today and tomorrow, so some PR to be done here.
GOLDMAN: Oh, I think so. The public image rehabbing begins today on "Today," a first step, the Rices hope, I'm sure, toward getting Ray back on the field, despite the judge's ruling last Friday. You know, we're still just a few months removed from the damning videotape of him punching his wife, then fiancee. And for that reason, it's highly unlikely any team would risk the bad publicity by signing him this year, despite what he's going to attempt publically over the next few days. He will be 28 next year. Usually a running back starts his downhill spiral right around 30 or a little older, so he may have some game left in him if a team wants to take that chance. But that would probably be next year at the earliest.
INSKEEP: Next year meaning that there's going to be a statute of limitations here. At some point, he'll be back on the field as Michael Vick eventually was back on the field.
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, a lot of people have raised the issue of Michael Vick. They say, how can you let Ray Rice back on the field after what he did, after we all saw what he did? Well, as you point out, Michael Vick in that infamous case, killed dogs and went to jail for it. And he's back. And while not widely celebrated, he's back and widely accepted in the NFL.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.