The Baltimore Ravens and NFL fans had been waiting for months for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce running back Ray Rice's suspension for the alleged incident in February. On Thursday, Goodell announced that Rice was receiving a two-game suspension and a $529,411.24 fine.
Rice, of the Ravens, was hoping to rebound from a very disappointing 2013 season beginning week one against the Cincinnati Bengals. Last season, he rushed for 660 yards, had 58 catches for 321 yards, averaged 3.1 yards per rush and scored four touchdowns. Many NFL fans and experts were surprised with how poorly he performed last season. It was only inevitable that his season would start at the earliest week three after the alleged incident involving him in February.
On Feb. 15, he allegedly struck his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, unconscious in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. There is a video that has gone viral of the aftermath of Rice's alleged strike against Palmer; a married couple shortly after that incident. The video shows Rice dragging Palmer, who seems to be unconscious, out of the elevator. He was charged with third-degree aggravated assault and pleaded not guilty. Rice was able to avoid a trial by being accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May. The NFL's personal conduct policy allows the league to suspend a player who is not charged or convicted of a crime. It was expected by numerous people that Rice, a first-time offender, would receive at least a two game suspension for the alleged incident. In the past three years, only 12 players had received suspensions that were more than a month long and they were all repeat offenders. Goodell stated in a letter to Rice, after meeting with him and Palmer, that he would be receiving a two-game suspension:
"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," Goodell wrote in his letter to Rice. "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," Goodell wrote. "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."
Despite Goodell's wording of why Rice was receiving a two-game suspension, there have been many critics of the suspension. Gregg Doyle of CBSSports.com and Gary Myers of the New York Daily News are among many critics who have said that Rice deserved a harsher suspension. There have been numerous people on social media who have stated that the NFL seem like hypocrites because of the suspension Josh Gordon received.
The NFL gave Gordon a one-year suspension for failing a drug test this offseason. Gordon failed his drug test this offseason when it revealed marijuana. This was the second time he had failed a drug test in the NFL. His first failed drug test occurred last season when he used cough syrup that contained codeine, which is a banned substance under the NFL's policy. These skeptics point out that it makes no sense for the NFL to issue a year-long suspension to a player who failed a drug test compared to a player who allegedly assaulted a woman; his then-fiancée. The Ravens appear to agree with Goodell on his suspension for Rice.
"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."
Not having Rice will be a significant blow to the Ravens. Rice has been the bell cow running back for the team since 2009 and the rest of the roster lacks experience at that position; eight combined starts. It is expected that Bernard Pierce will fill that role for at least the first two games of the upcoming season. Pierce will be entering his third season with the team and he has posted solid numbers. In his first two seasons, he has totaled 968 rushing yards, caught 27 passes for 151 yards, averaged 3.7 yards per rush and scored three touchdowns. Despite these average statistics, he has only started one NFL game; week 17 against the Bengals. On Dec. 30, he had 22 rushes for 89 yards and one reception for four yards in the 23-17 defeat. With Rice out, the pressure will begin to mount for quarterback Joe Flacco to carry the offense until at least week three. Rice is expected to help Flacco and simultaneously make his 2014 season debut on Sept. 21 against the Cleveland Browns.
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