Ray Rice, a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Baltimore Ravens, was slapped with a two-game suspension without pay on Thursday for a February 15 assault on his fiance, Janay, in an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino that knocked her unconscious.
Though Rice will be able to attend training camp with his team, his suspension takes effect on August 30, which means he’ll miss the team’s first two games against the division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals on September 7 and the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 11. And though he’ll be able to return for the Ravens’ third game against the Cleveland Browns, Rice will continue to be docked pay for that game, for a wage loss of more than a half-million dollars.
Though Rice, 27, received a felony charge of aggravated assault, his entrance into a pre-trial diversion program kept him from receiving a prison sentence and could let him avoid having the charge stick to his record.
In June, Ray and Janay Rice, by then married, met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell to be questioned about the incident. Five weeks later, Goddell told Rice of the suspension in the following letter obtained by the Baltimore Sun:
“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL. The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.
“You will be expected to continue to take advantage of the counseling and other professional services you identified during our meeting. As you noted, this additional assistance has been of significant benefit to you and your wife, and it should remain a part of your practice as appropriate. I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career. I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations.”
Rice echoed that supposed contrition in a statement released by the Ravens after Goddell handed down the suspension.
“It is disappointing,” Rice said in the statement, “that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault. As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.”
After the Ravens first training camp workout, at which Rice was present, Coach John Harbaugh expressed not a shred of surprise at Goddell’s decision:
“It’s not a big deal. It’s just part of the process. We said from the beginning that the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake. He’s going to have to pay a consequence.
“It’s good for kids to understand that it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be. We’ll move forward and the next guy will have to step up and Ray will be back when the time comes.”
Backup running back Bernard Pierce, as well as new team members Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Teliaferro will team up to fill in for Rice during the suspension. Rice is the team’s all-time best rusher from scrimmage, with 9,214 yards so far in his career.
Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens’ general manager, said there’s no reason why Rice won’t be able to return a better man after this suspension, according to the Associated Press.
“That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect,” Newsome said. “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.”
[Image courtesy of Rant Sports]