Ravens running back Ray Rice apologized to his wife Thursday.
That's one thing he had to do before most of us could respect him again and allow him to move on with his life.
Now, let the healing process begin. We may not forget, but forgiving becomes a lot easier when the words "I'm sorry" are mentioned.
"Last time I didn't publicly apologize to my wife, and I realized that hit home with a lot of people," Rice said. "There's many nights that me and my wife sleep together and we still have to deal with this. Her pain is my pain, my pain is her pain, and one thing that I wanted to do today was apologize to my wife, whom I've known since high school."
I had already moved on. But in recent weeks, the National Football League and the Ravens' public relations crew had unintentionally made Rice public enemy No. 1.
For the first time publicly since the February incident in Atlantic City with his then-fiancee, now-wife Janay, Rice told her he was sorry and made her the victim, not himself.
Rice asked for forgiveness from fans, teammates and team officials. He talked about a legacy with his 2-year old daughter and one day becoming an ambassador to fight domestic abuse throughout the country.
Apologies are all we can ask for and then we hope for the best. A lot of today's athletes never say they're sorry.
Their star status can never be the same. Rice might have a chance. His news conference Thursday was much different from the one in late May when he appeared nervous and awkward. Back then, he often looked down at his cell phone for notes.
On Thursday, he was calm considering the size of the media, which was large — as if the Ravens were about to leave Baltimore for the Super Bowl. After the team broke a huddle to end practice, teammates came over to shake his hand and offer support.
Rice wiped away tears before he went into the locker room to prepare. As he spoke, his wife looked down from a balcony but showed little emotion. At one point, she appeared to be texting as Rice took questions from reporters.
This time, he was more sincere. He took out a note card at the beginning, but then spoke from the heart. He talked about going to counseling and accepting full responsibility for the incident.
He said he never planned to appeal any suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"If I lost their respect, that's my fault," said Rice of his fans. "Whether it was two games, four games, six games, eight games — I was going to own my action and be a man about it and take whatever was given to me. I brought this upon myself. This has never happened before. I'm here today to tell you I made the biggest mistake of my life."
The Ray Rice we saw on video dragging his unconscious wife from the elevator was not the Rice we've come to know in Baltimore.
That Rice used to offer reporters water on hot days during training camp practices. He always stayed late and signed autographs. During the offseason, Rice was usually at some fundraiser in Baltimore hugging some kid or visiting someone in the hospital.
He got big-headed. When he struggled with injuries and weight last season Rice became frustrated.
The old Rice surfaced Thursday. He was humble. Some times you have to hit rock bottom before you come back up again.
"Sometimes you need a shoulder to cry on, sometimes you need a hug," Rice said.
The recent resentment shown toward him was more fallout from the NFL's light punishment and the team's push to enhance his image. Nationally, few believed he deserved less than a four-game suspension and that set off a wave of discontent from women's' rights and domestic abuse groups.
One day after Rice's suspension, the team posted a blog on its website by a Ravens official saying he and the team liked and supported Rice. And then later in the week the team's website showed Rice getting a rousing ovation from a section of the crowd at a Ravens practice Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was an honest effort by the Ravens to help Rice, but others viewed it as arrogance and denial. It was insensitive for an organization that has been one of the best in the NFL.
Now, the Ravens just need to be quiet. Rice took a huge step Thursday. He apologized to his wife. He said all the right words.
We won't know if Rice is clearly on the right path for some time, and he admitted that his marriage still needs to improve before he ventures out to help others in the community.
But for now, he is on the comeback. He came into training camp in great physical shape and has started redeeming himself with fans.
He said he was sorry. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. But it also can serve as the end — and the beginning.