NFLPA lawyer claims Cass coached Rice to understate assault

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The transcript of the Ray Rice appeal hearing, as summarized Wednesday by Don Van Natta, Jr. of ESPN.com, contains an intriguing — and potentially troubling — assertion regarding Ravens president Dick Cass.

NFLPA lawyer Heather McPhee testified during the hearing that Cass gave Rice a specific bit of advice before Rice met with Commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16.

“[Cass] said, ‘I completely agree with what Heather just said, Ray — be yourself,” McPhee testified.  “I would suggest there are different ways to describe what happened honestly, and it would be truthful to say [you] ‘lay [your] hands on'” Janay Palmer.

“So I said, ‘Well, Dick, I see what you are saying. I would respectfully suggest that sounds . . . as an attempt to soften the description of what occurred in the altercation,” McPhee testified.  “So I was trying to sort of not say, ‘Please don’t use that language that the president of your team just said,’ but to me it sounded like a suggestion that he tried to soften the language.  Ray had always used consistent language with me and it was never anything about laying hands on his wife.”

It’s a telling point, because the NFL justified its indefinite suspension by claiming that Rice indeed understated the altercation when meeting with Goodell.  Former U.S. Judge Barbara Jones flatly rejected the league’s position that Rice made misleading comments.

If McPhee’s testimony is accurate, it shows that, if anyone tried to understate the incident, it wasn’t the player who faced missing games but the team that faced playing games without the player.

Within the Ravens organization, a vague sense has emerged over the past several months that someone or multiple someones were downplaying the situation in order to help Ray both with the league office and with those in the building who may have been inclined to cut ties with Rice, if they’d known the truth.  With $25 million paid to Rice from July 2012 through early 2014, the team had an obvious incentive to find a way to keep Rice around, both by minimizing his suspension and by avoiding the possibility that someone (possibly coach John Harbaugh) would have insisted on cutting Rice.

So while it’s indeed possible that ambiguities existed regarding what happened in the elevator, it appears far more likely that the ambiguities were fueled not by Rice but by Cass.

UPDATE 1:20 p.m. ET:  The Ravens have issued a statement in which Cass says he did not suggest that Rice “soften or tone down” his description of the incident.

17 responses to “NFLPA lawyer claims Cass coached Rice to understate assault

  1. What else would you expect from an organization that soft pedaled the involvement of another Ray at the S Bowl? And then built him a statue because he helped them win a S Bowl…

  2. Please, let it alone, we don’t care. You can beat us over the head with conduct policies, Ray Rice, Peterson, Goodell, etc., but the bottom line is we fans don’t like abusers or want abuse to occur but telling us about it 24/7 365 days a year won’t make it go away.

    At the worst it makes us all numb to it.

  3. Everyone messed up, from Rice to the Ravens to Goodell. There is no good guys here, only degrees of bad behavior. I’m just tired of reading about people fighting about whose bad behavior is the worst.

  4. Did Rice follow through with that advice and downplay what happened? Cass was wrong to suggest it but that wouldn’t absolve Rice from following through with it.

  5. When I see some of the things the players do, I get upset about how some of them refuse to take any responsibility for their life or their actions.

    But management can be just as bad. When we talk about setting a bad example, the guys in the white shirts and ties are worse than the players. The suits are the ones who do the most damage to “the shield.”

  6. Agree that multiple people re/acted poorly. And there is plenty of blame to be doled out. And yes the coverage is tiresome.

    It’s true of all these cases.

    But none of it happens without the behavior that spurred it.

  7. Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over today sir?
    Driver: I assume because I was speeding.
    Officer: Yes sir. I got you going 65 in a 50 mph zone.
    Driver: Well thats a relief cause I was doing 90 before I saw you under the overpass.

  8. blahblah1313 you just hit the nail on the head. Building a statue of a man involved with murder (in any capacity) is just wrong and shows that as long as you are a baller you can … yes … GET AWAY WITH MURDER! Help a team win a championship and you get a free pass for life when he should have gotten life.

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