Film study of a different kind was awaiting them. But Monday morning, most of the Saints players during the team’s open locker room period had their eyes glued on a different kind of film playing on TV: video of running back Ray Rice’s hitting his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.
Already suspended for two games for the assault based on another video of his carrying Palmer from the elevator, Rice had his contact terminated by the Baltimore Ravens later Monday and was then indefinitely suspended by the NFL.
The grainy video, released by TMZ Sports, shows Rice and Janay Palmer in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino. Each hits the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing.
Earlier Monday, the Ravens said they never saw the new video. Hours later, they sent out a one-sentence release:
“The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of RB Ray Rice this afternoon.”
“It’s ugly,” said veteran tight end Benjamin Watson, who like the rest of his teammates did not know about the additional punishments at the time. “But to see it now makes me wonder when the tape was available in the first place, and who saw the tape from the beginning, and if other folks had seen this or not.
“For everyone, this is new and fresh, even though it happened months ago. But the reaction you’re going to see from the public, and the reaction you should see from the public, is utter disgust of a man hitting a woman like that.”
Offensive tackle Zach Strief was in that number showing that emotion.
“This is a very upsetting, difficult thing to see,” he said. “I’m not the guy who doles out punishment or anything, and I don’t know Ray Rice.
“But I do know that video is disgusting. I don’t think there’s anyone in this locker room who is not disturbed by it.”
Saints coach Sean Payton had not seen the video when he addressed the media, but said that the Saints organization, like the rest of the league, had a zero tolerance on domestic violence and that he supported the recently increased penalties for such actions.
“We are always educating our players, but I think this is pretty crystal clear,” he said. “And I absolutely think that zero tolerance is the right thing.
“We’re certainly aware of the policy change for any player or employee. I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t been identified a little more clearly before.”
The Saints have had at least one domestic abuse situation in Payton’s nine seasons as head coach.
Former defensive end Will Smith was arrested in 2010 in Lafayette after a fight with his wife. However, the misdemeanor domestic assault charge was dismissed two years later after Smith had performed several dozen hours of community service and gone though counseling.
He did not lose any playing time.
Rice, who married Palmer shortly after the incident in Atlantic City, was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to his record being purged.
Watson, who is a member of the executive committee of the NFLPA, said he did not know what Rice’s rights were as far as his suspension by the league is concerned, but that he also was concerned about the player and his wife.
“I know Ray and I know Janay,” he said. “And I know they’ve moved forward from this situation.
“Between the two of them, they have come to grips with what happened. And they are moving forward, since a reconciliation has taken place. And they want to increase awareness about domestic violence. Whatever happens moving forward is going to be tough for them. That’s why I’m praying for them.”
The NFL, which has been working hard to promote the game to women, also took action after the explicit video was released. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that, based on the new video evidence, Rice has been suspended indefinitely.
“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday morning. “That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.