By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston


BOSTON (CBS) — On Friday afternoon, ESPN released a thorough report that exposed multiple layers of deception and misdirection within the Baltimore Ravens organization, detailing each step the team took in the wake of Ray Rice assaulting and knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator back in February. Among other things, the story claimed that team executives were made aware of what took place inside the elevator, and that the team worked to influence both the New Jersey criminal justice system as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be lenient in punishing Rice.

On Monday, the Ravens categorically denied most of what was reported in the ESPN story, first through a 2,800-word statement and then by way of a press conference with owner Steve Bisciotti.

Forget the fact that the Ravens announced the press conference at 2:18 p.m., just an hour and half prior to its start, in order to ensure that the number of reporters who could attend in person and ask questions would be limited. Forget the fact that the statement was released at 3:46 p.m., just 14 minutes before Bisciotti would answer questions, thereby giving the reporters who could attend the press conference no time to read it in detail, digest its contents, identify inconsistencies and then ask thoughtful questions.

Forget all of that. There’s no reason to try to look deeper than the surface to find everything the Ravens organization said and did on Monday to be completely detestable.

The ESPN report said that upon seeing the “first” Ray Rice video — aka the one where the running back nonchalantly drags the lifeless body of Janay Rice, now his wife, out of an elevator — head coach John Harbaugh immediately wanted Rice to be released from the team. The Ravens, according to the report, denied Harbaugh’s request. However, once TMZ released the “second” video, which showed Ray clearly delivering a punch to the head of Janay, the team moved swiftly to immediately release the player.

In Monday’s statement, Harbaugh denied wanting Rice released after the first video.

“I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape,” Harbaugh said. “I was very disturbed by that tape, and I told people that the facts should determine the consequences. When I saw the second videotape, I immediately felt that we needed to release Ray.”

If you would like, you can watch the “first video” by clicking here. I frankly have always hesitated to share this video, because it is easy to find it to be disturbing, but for the sake of understanding what the Ravens admit to knowing, it’s important.

Harbaugh, in clear terms, said that he endorsed keeping Rice on the team after seeing him drag a woman out of an elevator.

And the head coach is not alone. The Ravens seemed proud to have all banded together as one to believe in unison that they all wanted to keep Rice aboard after seeing the first video.

“Neither John nor anyone else ever recommended cutting Ray Rice before we saw the second videotape on September 8,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

The Ravens claim that they believed that Ray did not punch Janay in the elevator and that instead he had hit Janay with an open hand, as if such an assault is acceptable.

“I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman,” said team president Dick Cass. “But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand.”

“It was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground,” Bisciotti said.

“Ray Rice never told me that he punched her,” Harbaugh said. “In June, when I spoke to ESPN The Magazine, it was still my understanding that Ray had not punched her and was acting defensively.”

“Ray told me he slapped her,” said director of security Darren Sanders. “He denied punching her.”    

There are four men who endorse — not even tacitly, but explicitly — a man’s right to hit a woman with an open hand if she engaged him physically. They’re saying this: We knew Ray Rice hit his wife with his hand, and we knew the force of the blow knocked her over, causing her to hit her head on the railing and lose consciousness, and we believe this was acceptable. We were under the impression that she had provoked him physically, and even though he absorbs hits from 260-pound linebackers for a living, we believed it was in his right to respond with an open-hand hit on a woman. Once we found out that he used a fist instead of an open hand, we deemed it unacceptable, and we did the right thing by releasing him.

Again, the team released a statement to say this. They want the public to know this.

It’s disgusting, and it explains perfectly how this situation was mismanaged from start to finish.

The ESPN report also said that despite multiple Ravens executives claiming that Rice lied to them about using an open hand as opposed to a fist, Newsome said that Rice never lied and was honest about what took place in the elevator. In Monday’s statement, Newsome sought to clarify that inconsistency.

“When I met with Ray to discuss the incident,” Newsome said, “I asked him one question: ‘Did you hit her?’ He responded: ‘Yes.’ Ray and I didn’t discuss details beyond that, because in my mind if he hit her, no matter the circumstances or explanation, he needed to own the situation. I immediately focused on Ray taking responsibility and making amends. I later said Ray didn’t lie to me because he told me he hit her, and that is what the video later showed — although the video was much more violent than what I had pictured.”

Newsome is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played 13 seasons in the NFL. He’s been an NFL executive for more than a decade. This is a man who has lived in the culture of the violent sport of football for the past four decades. Surely, he is aware of the type of force that must be delivered in order to knock a person unconscious (hint: it’s a lot of force), so his claim that the second video depicted an altercation “much more violent than what I had pictured” is a truly absurd and empty statement.

(Despite the Ravens’ best efforts to discredit the reporting from ESPN, the network stated that it stands by the reporting in the story.)

And when Bisciotti met with the media on Monday afternoon, nothing improved. He boldly claimed that nobody in the Ravens organization will lose their jobs. He laughed at the suggestion he might be forced to sell the team. And most damning, he admitted that the reason team executives never saw the tape from inside the elevator was because nobody really wanted to.

“If we had pressed for the tape, we would have gotten it to the league. If I had pressed the league to get the tape, the league would have gotten it. That’s what I believe,” Bisciotti said. “There is no excuse for me to have not demanded that video, except I wasn’t concerned or interested enough to demand it. It never crossed my mind. I’m sorry for that, deeply sorry for that. If it had crossed my mind, I would have demanded it. If I had demanded it, I would have gotten it. And if I had gotten it, I would have forwarded it to the NFL, and it would have turned into an unprecedented suspension for Ray.”

Steve Bisciotti, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, saw a video of his star player dragging a woman out of an elevator. He knew that Rice had hit his fiancee, causing her to lie unconscious on the ground. He took Rice at his word for what took place and then “wasn’t concerned or interested enough” to request to see footage of what actually took place inside the elevator.

Again, this requires no deep analysis; these are words directly from Bisciotti’s mouth.

Bisciotti and the Ravens likely believed they had devised a plan to come out on Monday and make things better. They accomplished the opposite.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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