3:50pm: Rice has also released a brief statement (via Albert Breer):
“I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans – but most importantly, my wife Janay. I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue. I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes.”
3:25pm: The NFL Players Association released a statement regarding the ruling:
“This decision is a victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent. This union will always stand up and fight for the due process rights of our players. While we take no pleasure in seeing a decision that confirms what we have been saying about the Commissioner’s office acting arbitrarily, we hope that this will bring the NFL owners to the collective bargaining table to fix a broken process. It is clear that this decision should force the NFL to embrace neutral arbitration as part of a necessary due process in all cases. The players thank Judge Barbara Jones for her time and thoroughness in this matter.”
2:10pm: Former Ravens running back Ray Rice has won his appeal for reinstatement, tweets NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The running back’s indefinite suspension has been overturned and he is now eligible to sign with any team. However, based on the rumblings we’ve heard over the past couple of months, that seems unlikely, at least for this season.
Following a grand jury indictment on third-degree aggravated assault, Rice was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season. When videos were released showing Rice striking his then-fiance, the NFL indefinitely banned the running back. The appeal hearing took place earlier this month, with Rice’s lawyers arguing that the running back shouldn’t have been penalized twice for the same offense, especially considering the league’s new six-game domestic abuse policy (via a tweet from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports).
The ruling certainly contradicts the punishment and subsequent comments by commissioner Roger Goodell in September. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that arbitrator and former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones believed Rice did not lie to the league regarding the circumstances of the assault. While the league claimed that the TMZ video shed new light into the investigation, the judge decided that Rice “did not mislead the Commissioner” and that the league saw “no new facts” prior to handing out the second suspension (via USA Today’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter).
“In so holding, I find that the NFLPA carried its burden of showing that Rice did not mislead the Commissioner at the June 16th meeting, and therefore, that the imposition of a second suspension based on the same incident and the same known facts about the incident, was arbitrary,” Jones’ stated (via ESPN.com).
“The Commissioner needed to be fair and consistent in his imposition of discipline.
“Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin believes that’s “not a good look” for the commissioner’s office (via Twitter). Either way, the NFL won’t pursue additional punishment for Rice, as Andrew Brandt tweets that the league is accepting the ruling as “binding.”
Rice has an active grievance against the Ravens regarding the money he believes he’s still owed, according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo (via Twitter). However, if the running back were to join another team, it wouldn’t have an impact on the Ravens cap, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Rice counts for $4.75MM against the cap this season and $9.5MM next year.
Some in the league believe that Rice’s return is inevitable, but not necessarily this season. That includes former Ravens executive Phil Savage and former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik (via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun)…
“I think it’s going to be tough for him to get his first crack at it in 2014,” said Savage. “I would tend to think that there would be — for lack of a better term — a cooling off period for him to reprove himself. But we’re a country of second chances and I do think he’ll get another opportunity.”
“You have to be willing to understand that it’s going to be a PR hit for a little bit, but I think you reason that as bad as the video was, they do their time for what they’ve done wrong,” said Dominik. “He’s still, from everything I’ve heard or know, gotten support from his wife to play and they are still together. I would sit there and have a lot of conversations, talk to ownership and you go through it. But Ray Rice is a good football player. I would expect him back in the league, but it may not be until 2015.”
Furthermore, Volin tweets that an owner would be “slapping Goodell in the face” if they decided to add Rice for the stretch run.