Ray Rice was let go by the Baltimore Ravens on Monday and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after a video was released showing the running back striking his then-fiancee in February.
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. Months ago, a TMZ video showed Rice dragging Palmer, now his wife, from the elevator at the Revel casino, which closed Sept. 2.
In a higher-quality video shown to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official Monday night, Rice and Palmer can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws the knockout punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, "She’s drunk, right?" And then, "No cops." Rice didn’t respond. The video, which is slightly longer than the TMZ version and included some audio, was shown to the AP on condition of anonymity because the official isn’t authorized to release it.
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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."
Coach John Harbaugh said he met with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome after they saw the video, and they made the decision to let Rice go.
"It’s something we saw for the first time today, all of us," Harbaugh said. "It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different."
The action represented a complete reversal for the team, even though an Atlantic City police summons stated that Rice caused "bodily injury to Janay Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious."
The Ravens had used words like "respect" and "proud" in referring to Rice following his arrest.
When the NFL announced Rice’s two-game suspension for domestic violence on July 24, Newsome said: "We respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again."
In late July, Harbaugh said, "The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterward by acknowledging it was wrong and he’ll do everything he can do to make it right. That’s what you ask for when someone does a wrong thing. So, I’m proud of him for that."
Asked Monday night if Rice misled him, Harbaugh said he didn’t want to get into "all that."
"I don’t think of it that way. Everything I said in terms of what I believe, I stand by," he said. "I believe that still, and I’ll always believe those things, and (we’ll) always stand in support of them as a couple, and that’s not going to change."
Rice said in a news conference this summer that his actions that night were "inexcusable." But the Ravens never took action against him until after the second video was released.
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."
Goodell indicated as much on Aug. 1 when during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend.
"When we’re going through the process of evaluating the issue and whether there will be discipline, you look at all of the facts that you have available to us," Goodell said. "Law enforcement normally has more … information, facts, than we have. We’ll get as much as we possibly can."
Rice’s lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Rice, 27, stood to make $4 million this year.
"Obviously, any video that depicts an act of violence in that video is disturbing to watch. For our union, we have an unshakable position against any violence, certainly domestic violence included," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the Seahawks’ facility in Renton, Washington. "It will be a time for us now to catch up with everything else that has occurred today."
He had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.
After Goodell drew criticism not being tough enough on Rice, in a letter to all 32 NFL owners in August saying he "didn’t get it right."
First-time offenders now face a six-game suspension.
Rice began his suspension Sunday, when the Ravens opened their season with a 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was scheduled to return after Thursday night’s game against Pittsburgh.
He leaves the Ravens as the second-leading rusher in franchise history, behind only Jamal Lewis. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Rice is the team’s career leader in total yards from scrimmage (9,214) and is the only player in Ravens history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
But those are mere numbers, and his actions in that elevator shed a new light on him.
"I’m not going to go into what he told us or anything or if it matches or if it doesn’t," Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said. "That doesn’t matter. What matters is what you see. It wasn’t a pleasant site at all."
Rice hasn’t spoken often to the media since his arrest, but on July 31 he said this is "something I have to live with the rest of my life."
He added: "I know that’s not who I am as a man. … I let so many people down because of 30 seconds of my life that I know I can’t take back."