OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — 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 spoke Monday after ESPN reported last week that the owner, 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 denied asking for leniency and 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 general manager Ozzie Newsome reiterated in the team’s statement Monday that Rice had been honest with him.
“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 handed a two-game suspension in late July under the NFL’s personal conduct policy after he was charged with assault for the Feb. 15 attack.
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.
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