It shouldn’t have taken a second Rice video for Ravens, NFL to get it right

Ray Rice is unemployed and indefinitely suspended after more fallout from a sickening domestic violence incident surfaced.

But it isn’t just his reputation that continues to suffer. The NFL and Ravens look bad, too.

More than six months after Rice violently leveled his then-girlfriend aboard a casino elevator, the same devastating punch connected on a different level. It took internet news/gossip site TMZ.com to do what the NFL and Ravens failed to accomplish (apparently): unearthing the actual video that showed Rice cold-cocking his wife last February in Atlantic City.

I say apparently because of the NFL’s claim that the indefinite ban was based upon "new video evidence that became available (Monday)." This means we have to assume neither the league nor the Ravens –“ both of which employ security staffs with strong law-enforcement ties — did their due diligence by finding the footage and, you know, actually watching it before determining how to proceed with handling the Rice situation.

If we accept this Barney Fife factor, I guess we, too, can believe that earlier footage showing Rice dragging his now-wife Janay out of the elevator unconscious wasn’t enough to arouse stronger suspicions of what exactly happened behind closed doors and place greater onus on finding the video.

Barring a cover-up by either side, it seems the NFL and Ravens made the mistake of taking Rice at face value about what he said happened that night. That would help explain –€“ but not justify — why Rice was suspended for only two games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the Ravens failed to take action themselves until releasing him Monday afternoon.

"Security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by the New Jersey State Police," an NFL spokesman said in a statement Monday evening. "Any videos related to an ongoing criminal investigation are held in the custody of the state police. As we said earlier today: We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today."

For those who have never witnessed domestic violence, watching Janay Rice crumble unconscious after being struck is the kind of introduction that encapsulates the heinousness of such an action. Ray Rice failed to immediately help his now-wife, putting his grotesque callousness on display.

None of this was handled well from the start.

The first error was made by the prosecutor’s office that viewed the footage and let Rice skate anyway by allowing him to enter a pretrial intervention program for what was a felony aggravated assault charge. Rice won’t serve any prison time and the charge will be dismissed if he completes the court-ordered mandates.

Next, the Ravens organization embarrassed itself by launching a vigorous offseason defense of Rice’s character. The franchise even issued a tweet reading "Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident" during an awkward May news conference featuring the couple that was intended as a platform for him to apologize.

As for disciplining or firing their employee, the Ravens passed the buck to Goodell for action the first time around. He settled in late July upon a two-game suspension — a tepid punishment from a league that proved shockingly tone-deaf to the public outcry for Rice to pay far more dearly.

Goodell tried to defend himself from such criticism the following week but ultimately relented with a mea cupla. He issued a statement at the end of the preseason promising a six-game ban for those who commit domestic violence in the future, followed by a lifetime ban for a second offense.

Rice could file a grievance to contest the suspension and his release. He also could accept the punishment and work diligently toward NFL reinstatement by following whatever rehabilitative steps Goodell mandates. There is no immediate word on his planned course of action.

Whatever his decision, Rice isn’t the only NFL player who will likely have hell to pay from the NFL for what has become such a hot-button issue. Two starting defensive ends — Carolina’s Greg Hardy and San Francisco’s Ray McDonald — also are going through the legal system for domestic-violence charges. The Panthers and 49ers have not yet taken any known disciplinary action.

Goodell will likely rule on the punishment for both players once their cases are resolved. Let’s hope he gets these rulings right from the start after the bloody mess the Rice debacle has left behind.