Ravens, NFL get it right after they had no other choice

September 08, 2014|Mike Preston

The Ravens and the NFL had a chance for a do over, and they got it right this time.

The Ravens terminated the contract of star running back Ray Rice on Monday afternoon, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely, hours after TMZ Sports released the video of him knocking his then fiancee, Janay Palmer, unconscious in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino elevator.

It was a good move by both the league and the team, but the video and the negative publicity forced the two organizations to act.

Local fans called morning talk shows and hit the Internet to complain about Rice, and some of them threatened to throw Rice jerseys on Unitas Plaza or on the playing field before Thursday night's nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That would have been embarrassing for the league as well as the Ravens. Rice also would have been a distraction in the locker room. The Ravens can't afford to lose to their AFC North rival Steelers, especially after losing to the defending division champion Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener.

"Obviously, the commissioner dropped the ball on this and he said so afterward when he changed the punishment," former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said Monday. "I think Baltimore got it right this time. I think they actually listened to Rice and the league and they did not see the video and accepted what they were told by those two parties.

"It would have been hard for him to go back into the locker room and regain the respect of his teammates after what was on the video, especially since he was considered a leader. If that happened, then what type of message does that send to the 52 other players"

If the Ravens had not taken some action against Rice, there would have been tremendous backlash both locally and nationally. The integrity of the league and Ravens was already being challenged after Rice was suspended for only two games by Goodell in late July.

In the latest video, Rice is shown punching Palmer with a clenched first leaving her sprawled out face down on the elevator floor. That was unnerving.

Worse yet, Rice calmly but coldly stood over Palmer without any remorse, or indications that this was an accident.

And for this, Rice got only a two-game suspension from Goodell. And for this, Rice wasn't punished at all by the Ravens.

But upon further review, the evidence was too overwhelming and shocking. Neither the Ravens nor Goodell could continue to support Rice.

If there was no video, Rice would still be a Raven and he would have shown up at the team's training facility ready to practice Friday morning.

But by early Monday morning the NFL had left itself some wiggle room. The league office had declared that it had not seen the latest video. Right.

The NFL has more spying networks and private tapings than the NSA. Its teams hire some of the best officers from some of the top law agencies in the country.

They invented the term Big Brother. They knew.

"When they draft players they are in your background, always digging in your business, doing their due diligence before they take you," Mason said. "There is no way I can believe the league had not watched that video."

Nearly two weeks ago, Goodell implemented a policy to increase the suspension of players involved in domestic abuse to six games for first time offenders.

Even if the NFL added four more games to Rice's suspension Monday, that wouldn't have calmed public concern, not with what was on the video.

With this move, the Ravens and the NFL have regained some credibility.

After the first suspension was announced, owner Steve Bisciotti was photographed hugging Rice on the practice field. Kevin Byrne, the Ravens senior vice president of public relations, also wrote a column in July on how the team continued to support Rice because he was a "good guy."

Some nice guy, huh?

The Ravens needed to make some kind of statement Monday.

It was one thing to see what Rice did once he got off the elevator, it was even more appalling when you see what happened on it.

Rice will leave the Ravens with a big hole on offense. Backup Bernard Pierce was the starter, but was disappointing against the Bengals. No. 2 reserve Justin Forsett performed well, but he's no Rice.

But at this point, who cares?

The judicial system in New Jersey got this wrong, too. On the night following the incident,Rice was allowed to leave with his wife. He was later put in a diversion program. Once completed, he will have no record.

But playing in the NFL is a privilege as well as an honor. The NFL likes to talk about its shield, and the character behind the logo. The Ravens pride themselves in being one of the league's best organizations.

But in the court of public opinion, both of their images took a beating.

They should have done more initially, but didn't. This time they got it right. They had too. Too many people were watching.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

ALSO SEE:

VIDEO: Harbaugh says Rice video "changed things"

VIDEO: Ravens cut Ray Rice

VIDEO: TMZ video shows Rice knocking out fiancee


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