Published September 13, 2015
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters he first learned of a video showing former running back Ray Rice viciously punching his then-fiancee on Monday, the same day the team announced it was parting ways with the former pro-bowler.
"(The video) is something we saw for the first time today. All of us," said Harbaugh, who added that the video previously was not made available to the team. "It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different."
The team fired Rice hours after video obtained by TMZ showed the 5-foot, 8-inch, 220-pound athlete delivering a left-handed blow to the face of Janay Palmer, appearing to knock her unconscious. The video was shot from inside the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and is the footage shot before the previously circulated video that showed Rice dragging his unconscious wife-to-be out of the elevator on Feb. 15.
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, general manager Ozzie 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."
At the time, Harbaugh added: "I stand behind Ray. He's a heck of a guy. He's done everything right since. He made a mistake. He's gonna have to pay a consequence. It's good for kids to understand it works that way. That's how it works. That's how it should be."
A day after Harbaugh's comments, Rice acknowledged in a news conference that his actions that night were "inexcusable." But the Ravens never took action against him until after the second video was released.
On Monday, Harbaugh said he stood by the comments he made supporting Rice back in July.
"Everything I said, in terms of what I believe, I stand by," he said. "We'll always stand in support of them as a couple, and that's not going to change."
The NFL's original suspension drew widespread criticism as too lenient and even prompted Commissioner Roger Goodell to admit he "didn't get it right." But the NFL said in a statement early Monday that it had not previously seen the second video, meaning the punishment was likely tempered by Rice and Palmer's description of what happened in the elevator.
"Roger Goodell has announced that based on new video evidence that became available today he has indefinitely suspended Ray Rice," the NFL tweeted.
Rice and Palmer married on March 28, one day after a grand jury indicted Rice on an aggravated assault charge. Rice avoided jail time by entering a pretrial diversionary program.
The couple held a joint news conference in May, where Rice apologized and Palmer said the incident was partly her fault, to the alarm of domestic abuse counselors. The suspension handed down by the league, considerably shorter than other penalties doled out by the league for such transgressions as smoking marijuana, drew sharp criticism from advocates for victims of domestic abuse.
When the new video emerged, a series of tweets from players around the league shows that whatever support Rice had went up in smoke after the second cleat dropped.
"This piece of sh-- needs to be out of the league. Period," tweeted former Saints and Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a player's union representative during his career.
"This video makes me sick to my stomach," Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said in one of several tweets, including one in which he said Rice belongs in prison, not on an NFL football field.
"He could've killed that girl. They need to sports science the force of that punch. NFL players are STRONG... Like very strong," tweeted former all-pro center LeCharles Bentley.
Other players directed their anger at the league and Goodell, who suspended Rice for a mere two games, including Sunday's opening day loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Although Goodell later said he "didn't get it right," and implemented a much tougher stance on domestic violence.
"To say you got that wrong is an understatement. Very disappointed in you. Wow...unbelievable," wrote former linebacker and likely future Hall of Famer London Fletcher.
"2 games. Disturbing," added Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang.
Rice, a second-round draft pick in 2008, had strung together four straight seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing before last year's meager 660 yards rushing and 3.1 average yards per carry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.