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The excellent ESPN report regarding the Ravens’ mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation paints a troubling picture regarding the role of the team’s president in the investigation and, perhaps more accurately, the coverup of its details.
According to Don Van Natta, Jr. and Keith Van Valkenburg of ESPN, Ravens president Dick Cass learned in early April that the contents of the video from inside the elevator were deeply troubling. Specifically, lawyer Michael Diamondstein told Cass that the video is “f–king horrible,” and that Rice “knocked her the f–k out.”
Per the report, Cass began urging Diamondstein to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program. Among the benefits Cass reportedly articulated to Diamondstein was the fact that the video of the incident would not be made public.
The Ravens repeatedly have criticized the prosecution for allowing Rice to enter into the intervention program based on such heinous conduct. But the report from Van Natta and Van Valkenburg contends that prosecutors initially rejected the intervention program. Only after Diamondstein produced nearly 30 letters of support (including one from Cass, G.M. Ozzie Newsom, and coach John Harbaugh) did the prosecution agree.
The Ravens contend that the ESPN report contains “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings,” but the Ravens have identified none of them yet. Apparently, the list alleged errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions, and perhaps misunderstanding is coming next week, after their game against the Browns.
Sorry, but that’s not nearly good enough. One of the league’s billion-dollar network partners has pinned on the Ravens and the NFL a report that, if accurate, should result in the termination of the employment of Cass, Newsome, and perhaps even Harbaugh. Likewise, real questions should be raised about Steve Bisciotti’s fitness to own the team, if the report is accurate and if he had any knowledge of the coverup. (Or perhaps even if he didn’t.)
And while some would say the report pulls the spotlight away from the NFL and puts it on the Ravens, the ESPN report makes the NFL’s complete failure to seek the video of the incident even more suspicious. If the report is accurate, the Ravens and the NFL didn’t get the tape perhaps because they didn’t want to see it.
Which could make that bombshell report from the Associated Press even more plausible, and troubling. Perhaps someone at the league office saw the tape, but that person knew the Commissioner didn’t want to see it — because that person knew the Commissioner wanted to find a way to give Rice the benefit of the doubt, and to be able to say he didn’t see the tape.
Regardless, Friday’s mediocre-at-best press conference performance coupled with the ESPN report means that Goodell remains in jeopardy of losing his job. The information developed by the supposedly independent investigation and generated by the Ray Rice appeal process could cement that outcome, if the ESPN report is accurate.
The team plans to talk in greater detail about the story next week, it said.
“The ESPN.com ‘Outside the Lines’ article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings,” the club said Friday night. “The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.”
While the club may not plan to further address the story until next week, it’s a certainty head coach John Harbaugh will be asked about it after Sunday’s game at Cleveland. Also, Kevin Byrne, the club’s senior V.P. of public and community relations, is slated to meet the press at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday in connection with the team’s Rice jersey exchange.
UPDATE 10:33 p.m. ET: “We stand by our reporting,” ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz told PFT on Friday night.
Among the many revelations in ESPN’s investigation of the decisions made by the NFL and Baltimore Ravens after Ray Rice’s arrest in February was that league commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly soon had second thoughts about handing down just a two-game suspension of Rice.
The ESPN report claims that “within days” of Rice’s initial ban on July 24, Goodell told someone close to him that “he wasn’t sure he had done the right thing,” wrote reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg, citing two unnamed sources. The report also said Goodell seemed to indicate he had been persuaded not to give Rice a harsher punishment — and that the commissioner “regretted” this, wrote Van Natta Jr. and Van Valkenburg.
Goodell would later change course on Rice, publicly saying in late August he erred in handing down the two-game suspension when unveiling a new domestic violence policy. And less than two weeks later, Rice was indefinitely suspended by the NFL.
But Rice’s longer suspension came only after video emerged of him hitting his now-wife in Atlantic City in February. The video, released by TMZ, was posted three days before the tailback was to sit out the last of those two games he was banned.
Only then, after the video went viral, did the league change course. By then, though, the outrage with the NFL and the Ravens had come to a boil. And the simmering really started when the league announced it was benching Rice for all of 120 minutes of regulation to begin the season.
There’s no wonder the Ravens were calling an emergency meeting this afternoon.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation in the 7,000-word-plus story by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg is that the Ravens knew nearly immediately that Ray Rice had punched his wife in the face in the elevator.
According to the report, Ravens director of security Darren Sanders talked to an Atlantic City police officer within hours of the incident. That officer “described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.”
The litany of mistakes that followed is amazing, but perhaps as incredible as any are the texts Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sent to Rice moments after he was released (the day the video was made public by TMZ).
“Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay,” the first text read.
“When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league,” said the second.
Those two actions, at the beginning and end of the process, give an indication of how deeply flawed this process has been.
Again, this story is more than 7,000 words long. There’s plenty to digest. There will be more.
Last Friday morning, the NFL thumped its chest over the enormous ratings generated by the Steelers-Ravens Thursday Night Football debut, broadcast jointly by CBS and NFLN. Roughly 20.8 million viewers tuned in, on average, for the 26-6 win by Baltimore.
This Friday, the release came very late in the afternoon. And the numbers show a sharp decrease in the total audience. The Buccaneers-Falcons game averaged only 11.8 million viewers. It wasn’t a compelling match up, and it turned into a rout.
In the end, the game generated an average audience only seven percent higher than last year’s Chiefs-Eagles game, broadcast by NFL Network only.
It may not be any better next week, when Washington hosts the 0-2 Giants. Neither team has created much buzz this year, and they may not attract much of an audience in six days.
The Ravens are denying a new report that there’s been dissension within their franchise for months over Ray Rice, as ESPN says coach John Harbaugh wanted to cut Rice in February, while the team says that’s not the case.
According to the report from ESPN, Harbaugh was upset enough about the team’s off-field misconduct (including not only Rice’s arrest for assaulting his wife but also the arrests of offensive lineman Jah Reid and receiver Deonte Thompson) that he wanted to cut all three arrested players. The report says, however, that Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome flatly refused. That report further says that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sided with Newsome on keeping Rice.
However, within the report from ESPN is this denial from the Ravens: “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us.”
Publicly, Harbaugh was supportive of Rice throughout the offseason, right until the decision to cut Rice after the infamous elevator video was published. But the ESPN report suggests otherwise, and paints Harbaugh in a much better light than Newsome and Bisciotti.
This report raises enough questions that Harbaugh, Newsome and Bisciotti should all explain exactly where they stood on Rice before the elevator video was released. And it should come directly from the mouths of those men, and not in a statement released by the team.
One of today’s winners — other than obfuscation, which is at an all-time high — is Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
As a result of the league’s new substance abuse policy, Gordon’s year-long suspension for an amount of marijuana which wouldn’t have triggered a positive test the new guidelines has been shortened to 10 games.
“I’m happy that the NFLPA and NFL worked hard to agree on a new Substances of Abuse policy,” Gordon said in a statement distributed by the union. “I’m very thankful to my union for fighting for a significant reduction in my suspension. I’m glad I can go to the facility during my suspension. I look forward to going to meetings, working out individually, and learning from my coaches and teammates. I cant wait until game 11 to get back on the field!”
Getting back to the facility might be the biggest part of the news, as it provides Gordon the structure he clearly needs.
Vikings playmaking wideout Cordarrelle Patterson appears good to go for Sunday’s game at New Orleans.
Patterson, who landed on the injury report Thursday with a chest ailment, is listed as probable after putting in a full practice Friday. He is one of five Vikings who are probable, including right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and right cornerback Xavier Rhodes (groin).
Possessing rare speed and the capability to be used in the backfield, Patterson can create myriad matchup problems for defenses. Patterson’s value to Minnesota has only increased with tailback Adrian Peterson banished from the club after his arrest on a child abuse charge.
Three Vikings starters are listed as questionable: defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder), weak-side linebacker Chad Greenway (hand/rib) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen). All three players were limited on Friday. However, in the case of Greenway, the work was his first in practice all week, so that’s not a bad sign entering the matchup with the 0-2 Saints, who have an outstanding offense.
During an afternoon of absolute transparency and concrete plans by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, we now have another item of positively stunning breaking news.
Donald Trump is drawing attention to himself for almost doing something.
Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, the investor/reality TV star/extreme combover magnate claimed on Twitter today that he was responsible for Terry Pegula’s $1.4 billion bid for the Bills.
“The Wilson family should thank me. Pegula overpaid for the @buffalobills because of me!” he wrote.
Trump bragged that he bid over $1 billion in cash for the Bills, though that’s the financial equivalent of players using the Adderall defense for any failed drug test, since it’s hard to establish whether he’s telling the truth or just trying to get on television again.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell broke his long silence on Friday afternoon in a press conference that opened with a lengthy statement promising accountability and transparency from the league in the future.
He offered very little of it in the present, however. Goodell consistently fell back on the talking points from his opening statement over the course of the 43 minute press conference that ended with several members of the media still waiting to ask questions.
In place of concrete answers to questions about why the NFL didn’t get the Ray Rice elevator video, why law enforcement in Atlantic City said they were never contacted by the NFL in an attempt to obtain the video and what ambiguities from Rice’s testimony led Goodell to suspend him indefinitely after finally seeing the video that showed exactly what the police report read, Goodell talked about forming new committees and former FBI head Robert Mueller’s investigation into the league’s handling of the matter.
Perhaps most telling was his unwillingness or inability to answer why it was so much more difficult for him to hand down the proper punishment in the Rice case than it has been in cases that didn’t deal with domestic violence. The man who opened the press conference by saying that he believes in accountability showed little of it in response by saying that the personal conduct policy, which Goodell oversees, was not sufficient to handle that particular case.
When Goodell wanted to be firm, he was. A question about possible conflict of interest for Mueller because his law firm WilmerHale has represented the client was met with Goodell saying that he hired Mueller because of Mueller’s credentials and not the firms. The rest was mushier, going back time and again to promises to fix the system with the help of other experts and the aforementioned committees.
That may lead some to wonder whether Goodell is an essential part of the process or if the man who wielded unilateral power as everything went haywire for the league stands in the way of the kind of changes that he said need to be made.
Not only did Dion Jordan not get his suspension shortened, it went the other direction.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins announced that the second-year outside linebacker has been suspended again.
His previous four-game suspension for violating the PED policy was lifted after two games, but was then superseded by a new four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
He will be eligible to return Oct. 20, the day after they play the Bears.
“I am currently undergoing treatment to address my situation,” Jordan said in a statement provided by the team. “I am working hard to become a better man and to make better choices in the future. I am especially looking forward to returning to the team. I also want to thank my family, Coach [Joe] Philbin and the Miami Dolphins organization for their support.”
The short version is he’ll miss six games this year, instead of four, and is looking more and more like a failed use of the third overall choice in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The group that has been flying “Goodell Must Go” banners over NFL stadiums in recent weeks apparently won’t be changing the last word in the mantra to “Stay.”
UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy group, has asked the league’s sponsors to abandon the NFL until Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves office.
“This press circus did nothing to change Goodell’s long history of inaction on and blatant mishandling of domestic violence in the NFL,” UltraViolet Co-Founder Nita Chaudhary said in a statement. “The facts are the facts: 57 domestic violence cases saw little to no action under Goodell’s ‘leadership.’ We know what happens when no one is watching: Goodell ignores domestic violence. He has made it clear he will not even consider resigning, bringing into question his basic judgement.
“So now, we call on all of the NFL’s sponsors to take a stand against domestic violence by withdrawing their support for the NFL until Goodell is out of office. One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and it is clear that Goodell doesn’t yet understand the appalling nature of that simple statistic.”
So, basically, the banners will keep flying.
As the Commissioner was facing the music after 10 days of invisibility, the Ravens were bracing for a potential storm.
Multiple sources tell PFT that the Ravens expect a major investigative story to soon be published regarding the team’s mishandling of the Ray Rice case.
Some claim that the looming report has sparked an “emergency meeting” in the Ravens’ front office. It’s our understanding that a meeting already had been scheduled, and that the emergence of concern regarding an upcoming report about the situation was coincidental.
Either way, it appears that more will soon be known about the Ravens’ role in whatever did and didn’t happen, and whatever anyone knew or didn’t know about the situation.
Which, depending on the specific contents of the report, could result in even more scrutiny of the team and the league.
The Chiefs’ lead back, Charles was limited for a second straight day with his injury, a high-ankle ailment.
A “questionable” designation means a player is 50-50 to play.
While Charles appears to have a chance to suit up, the Chiefs will not have star strong safety Eric Berry (ankle) and speedy tailback/receiver De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring). Both have been officially ruled out.
All other Chiefs players on the injury report are probable, including outside linebacker Tamba Hali (ankle/knee), who looks set to play Sunday after a week of limited practices.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference did not allay all the concerns that fans and the general public have about the league’s handling of domestic violence. But the press conference did feature some strange situations.
For starters, a reporter from TMZ, which broke this whole issue open by publishing the now-infamous video of Ray Rice punching his wife in an elevator, asked Goodell why the NFL couldn’t find that video. Goodell didn’t have much of an answer. This was their exchange:
TMZ: “You suspended Ray Rice after our video. Why didn’t you have the curiosity to go to the casino yourself?”
Goodell: “Well, two things. We suspended Ray Rice originally after seeing the original video that was disclosed in February. When the second video came out last week, that’s when we increased our discipline because that was inconsistent with the information we had. It was new information. One of the things that I said in my statement, and I said repeatedly here, is that is part of what we want to do with all of our experts, outside, internal, is try to figure out, How should we investigate these issues? In the past, we have been almost completely reliant on working with law enforcement and cooperating with them. We do not want to interfere with an investigation. And particularly here when you’re dealing with a casino in New Jersey there are even more restrictions because it’s overseen, I believe, by the attorney general. So we have to be very cautious not to interfere with an investigation, but we’ll evaluate that. Should we do more to get that information? I would have loved to see that tape. Should we do more to get that information in the future? That’s a question I want these experts to do.”
TMZ: “Mr. Commissioner, we found out by one phone call. You guys have a whole legal department. Can you explain that? We found out by just one phone call.”
Goodell: “I can’t explain how you got the information.”
An even odder spectacle was the sound of a man screaming from off camera while Goodell was at the podium. TV viewers had no idea what was happening but could hear the man yell, “What are you doing? Don’t take me to an elevator! Please, don’t take me to an elevator!”
That man was later revealed to be Benjy Bronk of The Howard Stern Show. That portion of the press conference is below: