Steve Bisciotti sums up 2014 simply as his "worst year" as owner of the Baltimore Ravens. The team was engulfed in off-the-field problems — most notably the arrest and subsequent release of running back Ray Rice.
Five Ravens were arrested in 2014, including Rice, who was charged with assault in February after punching his then-fiancee in an elevator. Rice was released by the team after a video of the assault became public.
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For Bisciotti, all of it overshadowed Baltimore going 10-6, winning a playoff game in Pittsburgh and nearly upsetting the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
"It was my worst year as an owner," Bisciotti said Tuesday. "I had 14 good years and then I had an absolutely crappy year."
Bisciotti and the Ravens came under fire for putting their support behind Rice until the video came out.
"We all agreed that we should support Ray Rice in February. And, we all agreed that morning that we couldn’t. I don’t regret either of those decisions," said Bisciotti with a self-assured tone.
Rice’s domestic violence issue was only part a wave of misdeeds by some of his players.
"Things come in waves and we certainly took a crash here last year," Bisciotti acknowledged. "There isn’t a lot you can do. We are a team and an organization that cares obviously about our reputation and when it takes a hit, then you examine what you do.
"But in order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did. Now it’s about proving it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case."
Toward that end, Ravens president Dick Cass said, "In the past, the process we have in place has worked a lot better than it did this past year. If you look at the five-year period leading up to that, 2009-13, we had three arrests."
But problems persist.
Ravens security director Darren Sanders was charged in December with a sexual offense after he allegedly groped a woman while she escorted him to his car at the team’s home stadium.
"We will wait until the investigation is complete," Bisciotti said. "We believe in Darren, so we’re all very supportive of him. The sign is still on his door. We’ll address that when we get some more information. Right now, we don’t have any."
Earlier this month, defensive tackle Terrence Cody was indicted for animal cruelty and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released by Baltimore as soon as the investigation began.
All of this has taken much of the satisfaction Bisciotti derived from a season in which they reached the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years under coach John Harbaugh.
"John’s success in the season at least bolstered me up and evened out my temperament a little bit and reminded me of the good things," Bisciotti said. "I am off suicide watch. I am stable mentally and I’ll probably be your owner for a while."
He gave credit to Harbaugh for getting the team to the postseason in spite of the off-field issues.
"What John did and the way he handled the coaches and the players was masterful," Bisciotti said. "With all of those distractions, we had to win the last game of the year to get into the playoffs and we did it. Then we went and beat Pittsburgh, where we were 0-for-3 as a franchise" in the playoffs.
The Rice saga has molded some of the qualities general manager Ozzie Newsome looks for when adding a draft pick or free agent to the team.
"Someone that has domestic abuse in their background, it’s going to be tough for them to be considered a Raven," Newsome said.
Bisciotti hopes the action the team took in the wake of Rice’s arrest and release will pay off in the future.
"We’ve been able to tap sources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity, our responsibility," he said. "I do think that for the Ravens and society in general, it’s a positive. It’s our obligation to turn that negative into a positive. I’m very encouraged in that all we have to do is be aware and be sensitive and we will do a job that Baltimore’s proud of going forward."