OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti criticized a report that suggests he and other team officials tried to persuade the NFL to be lenient on Ray Rice after the running back was arrested for knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City elevator.
Bisciotti held a news conference Monday to respond to an ESPN report last week that he, president Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome pushed Commissioner Roger Goodell for leniency for their star running back.
“Their accusations didn’t jibe with what we know is fact,” said Bisciotti, who said he expected Rice to be suspended 4-6 games.
The owner also said, “What’s obvious is the majority of the sources work for Ray. ... They are building a case for reinstatement.”
Rice was originally suspended two-games, but after a video surfaced on Sept. 8 showing the violent attack, he was released by the team and suspended indefinitely by the league. He has appealed his suspension.
“As I stated in our letter to you on September 9, we did not do all we should have done, and no amount of explanation can remedy that. But there has been no misdirection or misinformation by the Ravens,” Bisciotti said in a statement released before the news conference.
“We have stated what we knew and what we thought throughout — from the original report of the incident, to the release of the first videotape, to the release of the second videotape, which revealed a much harsher reality,” Bisciotti added in the released statement. “As we said in our response to ESPN’s questions on Friday, it was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground.”
Rice punched Janay Palmer in a casino elevator on Feb. 15. He was arrested on assault charges, and a police summons stated that Rice had struck Palmer with his hand, rendering her unconscious. Rice has been accepted into New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, which enabled him to avoid jail time and could result in having the charge expunged from his record after he meets the requirements.
Ravens GM Newsome reiterated in the team’s statement Monday that Rice had been honest with him about what happened.
“When I met with Ray to discuss the incident, I asked him one question: “Did you hit her?” He responded: “Yes,” Newsome said. “Ray and I didn’t discuss details beyond that, because in my mind if he hit her, no matter the circumstances or explanation, he needed to own the situation. I immediately focused on Ray taking responsibility and making amends.
“I later said Ray didn’t lie to me because he told me he hit her, and that is what the video later showed — although the video was much more violent than what I had pictured.”
According to the ESPN report, the Ravens believed this would “fortify the team’s argument to Goodell that Rice should be given a suspension of fewer games.”
Rice was originally suspended in late July under the NFL’s personal conduct policy after he was charged with assault for the Feb. 15 attack.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh denied he wanted Rice released after the first videotape surfaced.
“I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape,” the coach said in the release. “ I was very disturbed by that tape, and I told people that the facts should determine the consequences. When I saw the second videotape, I immediately felt that we needed to release Ray.”
Added Newsome: “Neither John nor anyone else ever recommended cutting Ray Rice before we saw the second videotape on September 8.”
Within weeks, in the wake of harsh criticism from around the country, Goodell acknowledged in a letter to all 32 NFL owners that he “didn’t get it right.”
Rice had already served the first game of that suspension when the video surfaced.
There remains questions as to whether the NFL had access to the video, and the ESPN report said Cass never asked for a copy of the video.
The Associated Press has reported the video was sent to NFL offices in April, and the league subsequently hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to look into how the NFL sought and handled evidence in the domestic violence case.
Harbaugh said he understands all the questions and reports about the Ravens’ handling of Rice’s domestic violence case, and doesn’t view them as a distraction.
“When you’re in football you pretty much get used to being under attack. You can’t worry about it,” Harbaugh said. “Good things are going to come out of this. We’re going to improve. As a society, we have to improve.”