Ravens officials told to save documents as part of NFL's Ray Rice investigation

Players association launches its own probe into the handling of running back's case

  • From left, Ravens president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and owner Steve Bisciotti.
From left, Ravens president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie… (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun )
September 24, 2014|By Doug Donovan and Aaron Wilson | The Baltimore Sun

Ravens officials instructed employees Wednesday to save any documents, texts and emails related to Ray Rice in preparation for the NFL's investigation being conducted by former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.

The Ravens had already been told that team officials would be interviewed as part of the investigation into how Rice's domestic violence case was handled, but they had not been given any specific dates or instructions on what documents to preserve before Wednesday, said Kevin Byrne, the team's senior vice president of public and community relations.

Byrne would not disclose who sent the email to employees requesting that documents be saved. A source told The Baltimore Sun that team president Dick Cass sent the email.

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association announced Wednesday that it will conduct its own investigation into how the league and the Ravens handled the Rice situation. It will run parallel to the NFLPA's appeal on behalf of the indefinitely suspended former Ravens running back.

That probe will be led by federal prosecutor Richard Craig Smith, head of regulatory and governmental investigation at the firm of Norton Rose Fulbright. That law firm also assisted the union in its investigation of the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal two years ago and with the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal last year involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

"As a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Smith brings tremendous experience and expertise," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The NFLPA will request that the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens cooperate in the interest of transparency."

Rice has hired veteran attorney Peter Ginsberg to represent him in his legal matters involving the NFL, according to a source.

Ginsberg previously represented former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the bounty scandal. He also represented Maryland men's basketball star Dez Wells in his case against Xavier University.

Ginsberg did not respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Initially suspended for two games for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy, Rice's suspension was increased after a video surfaced of him knocking out his then-fiancee, Janay, whom he later married.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a disciplinary letter that the video constituted new evidence that didn't mesh with the version of events Rice told him. Rice will contend that he told the truth to the Ravens and the NFL in his meetings with them, according to sources.

The NFLPA is expected to focus a large part of its argument on Article 46 of the NFL collective bargaining agreement dealing with "One Punishment," which prohibits the NFL and teams from punishing a player multiple times for the same offense, according to sources. They'll also argue that the NFL based its punishment of Rice on a video that was edited by TMZ, the celebrity gossip website.

The Ravens terminated Rice's contract the day that video emerged.

Ravens defensive end Chris Canty, the team's player union representative, said Wednesday that the NFLPA hopes to preserve Rice's rights.

"I think we have to address the process of what's going on," Canty said. "Obviously, we don't approve of the act, and it was definitely a situation where there was poor judgment involved. At the same time, you have to go about the process the right way when enforcing discipline. And that's something that the union is going to make sure that Ray has the opportunity to have due process. He has rights."

Monday, Steve Bisciotti called the Rice situation the biggest crisis during his ownership of the team as he refuted an ESPN report that he and his top managers misrepresented what they knew about Rice hitting his fiancee at Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City in February.

In a letter to stakeholders and fans sent Sept. 9, the day after Rice was released, Bisciotti explained that Ravens officials attempted but failed to obtain the video from Atlantic City police, prosecutors and casino officials.

Monday, in response to the ESPN report, the team released a detailed statement with new information: its director of security, Darren Sanders, spoke to an Atlantic City police officer days after the Feb. 15 incident and was given a description of what the entire video showed.

Sanders was quoted as saying in the team's statement that the officer "could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her."

Byrne said he believes the new information does not contradict the team's Sept. 9 letter that summarized what Ravens officials knew at the end of February, even though it did not say anything about Sanders' conversation.

"If you're asking me if the letter to our fans was the complete accounting of the knowledge we had, no it's not," Byrne said. "It wasn't then. It's not today. I think we have been forthcoming. Everything dramatically changed when we saw the video."

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