Updates from Friday, August 1
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent letters to commissioner Roger Goodell calling for Rice to face a harsher punishment beyond the two-game suspension handed down by the league and considered too lenient by many critics.
“The decision to suspend Mr. Rice for a mere two games sends the inescapable message that the NFL does not take domestic or intimate-partner violence with the seriousness they deserve,” the letter read.
“Mr. Rice's suspension reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women. We therefore urge you to take two steps immediately. First, reconsider and revise Mr. Rice's suspension to more adequately reflect the seriousness of his offense. We are also writing to the Baltimore Ravens to request that they impose additional discipline under their own authority, but it is imperative that the NFL itself makes clear that this conduct is truly unacceptable.”
Goodell talked about the logic behind Rice's suspension on Friday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun:
Goodell talked about remaining consistent, per Wilson:
He also talked more in depth about what went into the decision:
Updates from Wednesday, July 30
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk provides John Harbaugh's comments on the Ray Rice situation:
“I love the way he’s handled it,” Harbaugh said. “I hate what happened. What happened was wrong, flat out. The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterwards by acknowledging that it was wrong and he’ll do everything he can do to make it right. That’s what you ask for when someone does a wrong thing. So I’m proud of him for that, from that standpoint. And for anybody out there who’s going to misconstrue that and just write, ‘John Harbaugh is proud of Ray,’ then shame on you. I’m proud of him for the way he’s handled it, OK? Disappointed in what happened, but you go forward. You know, you go forward. That’s what we’re going to do as a football team, and that’s what we’re going to do as an individual, he’ll do as an individual.”
Updates from Monday, July 28
NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch discussed the league's decision to suspend Ray Rice for two games during an interview on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike on Monday, per ESPN.com:
Listen, I think if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it's OK to go out and commit that kind of conduct, I think that is something that I would suggest to you that no player is going to go out and do that. So in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that. We can talk about the degree of discipline, we can talk about whether or not third parties need to be involved. I would suggest to you that a third party has been involved in this matter and that was the court that reviewed it, the prosecutor that reviewed it.
But if it is a question about what the principle of the league is and what standards we stand by, that cannot be questioned. I think it is absolutely clear to all involved that the NFL does not condone domestic violence in any way and will not tolerate it in our league. I don't know how you can reach a conclusion other than that although I certainly respect the opinion.
Earlier, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun provided an update on Ray Rice's suspension:
Baltimore Ravens All-Pro running back Ray Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season.
The NFL confirmed the news in a release Thursday (via Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports):
Rice was indicted on one count of aggravated assault in March for an incident that occurred with his wife (then fiancee), Janay Palmer, at Las Vegas' Revel Casino Hotel. Due to his enrollment into a pretrial intervention program, there won't be any jail time involved in Rice's legal punishment.
Following the announcement, Rice commented on his suspension from the league in a statement on the Ravens' website:
It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault. As I said earlier, I failed in many ways.
But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.
My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome also spoke about Rice in the statement:
While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league's decision and believe it is fair.
We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice. The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the details:
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec confirmed Schefter's report:
ESPN's John Clayton reported on the chance of appeal:
CBSSports.com's Will Brinson and Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar provided Ravens head coach John Harbaugh's initial reaction to the news:
At a press conference in May, Rice expressed remorse for his conduct, per Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
But as Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman heard, the league planned to take action:
While the suspension is certainly not positive for Rice, this is a difficult blow for Baltimore to take as well. As valuable of an all-purpose back as Rice has been throughout his career, he has also been widely viewed as an upstanding, respected player away from the gridiron. The suspension will leave an indelible mark on his legacy.
What may hurt him the most is that Rice will be hard-pressed to prove himself on the field any longer, if last season was any indication. Rice played in 15 of 16 games, albeit dinged up, registering a career-low 3.1 yards per carry and just 660 rushing yards.
Wilson noted how Rice may be in for a redemptive return to form—when he returns, that is:
Backup Bernard Pierce didn't fare much better in 2013-14, so perhaps the offensive line was more to blame for the rushing attack's struggles. Combine that with the lackluster year by previous Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco, and Baltimore's offense is in a precarious place at the moment.
One silver lining from this situation from a football perspective is that Rice won't have quite the wear and tear on his body to start the 2014-15 campaign, though the backfield depth has to be quite a concern. Rookie fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was arrested in May, getting his career off to an ominous start.
Rice has been counted on to carry the load and take pressure off Flacco for years. When he was unable to help out his big-armed signal-caller last year, Flacco struggled mightily to live up to expectations as the Ravens missed the playoffs.
Age 30 is often the point at which running backs start to decline in the modern era, but Rice, 27, came out of Rutgers rather young and already has six seasons under his belt in the pros, along with nearly 1,500 carries. That's quite a lot of mileage. Asking him to be an every-down back at this point may be difficult, especially if he's rusty coming off the suspension.
With his deceptive power, compact frame and receiving skills, Rice still has the ability to carve out a prominent role for multiple years. However, he will have to prove he can be healthy enough to be a true No. 1 ball-carrier and the perpetual spark he's been for Baltimore in the past.