The NFL made it official Thursday afternoon by announcing a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Rice was arrested in February in an incident where he allegedly punched his now-wife, Janay Rice, and knocked her out in an elevator at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Rice was accepted into a pretrial diversion program, to which the third-degree felony charge will be erased from his record upon completion.
"We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "The time the Commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league's decision and believe it is fair.
"We also 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."
It's certainly a blight on an otherwise stellar career on and off the field. Before the incident, Rice's public image was spotless, given the community work he's done, which includes trying to stamp out bullying from schools. Now, he's also known as someone that assaulted a woman in public and will have to deal with this incident for the rest of his career.
Rice will miss Baltimore's first two games against the Bengals and Steelers, two important games that could potentially help decide the AFC North by the end of the year. He'll be back for Week 3's contest against the Browns.
As a result of the suspension, Rice will lose $529,411 as he won't collect the two checks from the games he'll miss, as well as an additional one he's being fined for (his third game check is from the 2013 season and worth $58,823, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter). Of course, that's next to nothing considering the guaranteed money he received with his contract before the 2012 season, which is the No. 1 reason he's still on the Ravens' roster.
In a letter to Rice, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote that he believes the running back is sincere in his efforts to learn and change from this incident.
"As you acknowledged in our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league policies and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL,"Goodell wrote. "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 will have three days to appeal his suspension.
A lot of folks will say the suspension isn't enough. It is just two games for assaulting a woman, and those people that argue that have a great point. The NFL was in a weird spot on this — how does it punish a first-time offender in a domestic case where previous precedents, minor suspensions for cases like this, have been set? But how can it claim Does it make an example of Rice or essentially give him a second chance with a minor punishment? And if so, how can it claim consistency when it punishes players for four games for getting caught smoking marijuana twice while punishing someone who assaulted a woman for half as much?
The NFL will receive a ton of scorn for this. Regardless of the decision, however, it's now on Rice to do whatever possible to make right of the situation he put himself, his wife, his daughter Rayven, both of their families and the Ravens in.
"It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault," Rice said. "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.
"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that."