(SportsNetwork.com) - The first step to climbing out of a hole is to stop digging and former Missouri star Shane Ray tried to do exactly that on Wednesday, appearing as scheduled at the NFL's Play 60 event in Chicago's Grant Park.
Ray was once regarded as a possible top-10 selection in the 2015 draft but a toe injury and a recent marijuana citation has many NFL teams red-flagging the edge defender.
"With what happened, I don't think a lot of people expected me to still come and be here," Ray said. "I'm a man. I'm not going to run from anything. I've been open with everybody about what happened."
That might not be enough to keep Ray in the first round, however.
Reports surfaced late last week claiming Ray may need surgery on his ailing toe, something he denied to ESPN.
"I just saw the doctor in past couple days and he says I won't need surgery," Ray told ESPN. "He just believes because of my schedule, I haven't had time to rehab properly to get this toe where it needs to be. Teams that don't seem concerned just told me that I would need to take it easy through rookie camp and continue to focus on rehab and healing."
Clubs desperate for a pass rusher, like Atlanta at No. 8 overall, probably could have bought that narrative and taken a chance on Ray but he muddied the waters even further when he was pulled over on Monday in the Show Me State and cited for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana.
And make no mistake this is not about morality. The NFL's drug policies, both for PEDs and recreational drugs, have always been about public relations more than anything else.
While organizations will feign dismay over weed dalliances the reality is they understand a significant number of players in this league smoke and don't really have a problem with it.
The real issue is about availability and Eagles coach Chip Kelly put it best when he said "the best ability is availability."
It doesn't matter how talented Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon or Dion Jordan are if they can't suit up for their respective teams so when players like Randy Gregory can't pass what is essentially an IQ test that he knows is coming and Ray, three days before becoming a millionaire is assured, can't just smoke at home, it's a problem.
And don't undersell the timing of Ray's citation either. It was just before 6 a.m. local time, indicating he was up all night partying (bad) or got up very early and started in like it was his morning coffee (perhaps worse).
"What happened Monday was a terrible decision that I made," Ray admitted. "I'm very sorry for the position I put myself in. Everybody makes mistakes. I made a mistake. It just so happens that it's right before the draft, one of the most important days of my life."
Consider this. though: a likely serial murderer who laced his weed with PCP was able to traverse the NFL's ludicrous marijuana policy with nary a hiccup yet players like Ray and Gregory are already headed down the same path guys like Gordon and most recently Jordan have taken.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Ray said. "Nobody can look at me and say they haven't made a mistake. Mine is only magnified because it's three days until the draft. That's what this is all about. I can't control what happens moving forward."
And that's the worst part. Ray had control of his future and willingly gave it up, not by smoking the weed but by failing to exhibit even a modicum of common sense.
"All I can hope is somebody can still give me a chance to play in the National Football League," he continued.
His talent says someone will, albeit at a greatly reduced pay rate. Most won't, however, because they will be exhibiting the practicality that eluded Ray on Monday.