Tag Archive | "Steve Bisciotti"


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Billick’s speech to Ravens should be step toward Ring of Honor

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A familiar face addressed the Ravens after Wednesday’s practice in Owings Mills.

Of course, Brian Billick may not be as easily recognized by current Ravens players — Terrell Suggs, Sam Koch, and Marshal Yanda are the last holdovers from his nine-year tenure — but it was still a feel-good scene when the former head coach and Super Bowl XXXV champion spoke to the Ravens at the request of John Harbaugh. It’s been more than seven years since Billick was fired at the end of the 2007 season, but Harbaugh asking his predecessor to address the current team just felt right.

“Here’s a coach that coached a lot of bad-ass Raven football teams around here,” Harbaugh said. “It was pretty fun to listen to him coach, and I think it meant something to him. It meant something to all of us. He did a great job, and we’re proud to have him back.”

Billick was in Owings Mills as part of the NFL Network’s training camp coverage, but one can only hope the invitation to speak was an important step toward a much-deserved honor for Billick. Some time needed to pass before the subject was finally broached, but now seems an appropriate time for the Ravens to add Billick to the Ring of Honor.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with the decision at the time, it’s difficult to argue with owner Steve Bisciotti’s dismissal of Billick when you see how successful the Ravens have been under Harbaugh, but that shouldn’t take away from the accomplishments of the former. In 1999, Billick took the reins of a team that only knew losing in its first three years before leading the city of Baltimore to its first NFL championship since Super Bowl V in his second season as head coach.

He wasn’t perfect as his inability to develop a franchise quarterback ultimately led to his downfall, but a Super Bowl championship, two AFC North titles, and four playoff appearances in nine years comprise a resume that’s worthy of a spot on the M&T Bank Stadium facade. And he will surely be joined by Harbaugh one day, just as the two stood side by side on Wednesday.

Seeing Billick speak to the Ravens was not only a fun trip down memory lane, but it was a reminder of what needs to happen sooner rather than later.

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Bisciotti denies influencing Goodell on “Deflategate” decision

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Luke Jones

As the NFL world awaits a ruling on Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti wanted to make it clear he isn’t trying to influence commissioner Roger Goodell in making a decision.

In a statement released by the Ravens on Sunday afternoon, Bisciotti denied the report from ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that he was among a group of owners urging Goodell to uphold the New England Patriots quarterback’s ban for his involvement in the “Deflategate” scandal. Reports indicate Brady is likely to take the league to court if the suspension stands.

“I have not and will not put any pressure on the commissioner or anyone representing the NFL office to take action in what everyone is calling ‘Deflategate,'” Bisciotti said. “The story circulating that I have put pressure on Roger is 100 percent wrong. The reports are unfair to [New England owner] Robert Kraft, who is an honorable person, and to his franchise.”

Of course, the longer Goodell delays his decision, it welcomes the possibility of anyone with a vested interest in the outcome trying to gain his ear.

If the suspension stands, Brady would miss the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and would not return until New England’s Week 5 encounter with Indianapolis, a delicious coincidence considering the transgressions came against the Colts in January’s AFC championship game.

“Let’s talk about football and the start of training camps,” Bisciotti added in his statement. “Fans and people like me want the issue resolved now.”

That sentiment can probably be agreed upon by most who’ve followed this saga for the last six months.

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Bisciotti thinks extension would be “win-win” for Flacco

Posted on 01 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens know they’ll return to the negotiating table with quarterback Joe Flacco next winter, but owner Steve Bisciotti is confident the sides will continue their relationship far beyond the 2015 season.

In signing the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player to a record-setting six-year, $120.6 million contract two years ago, the organization knew the deal was structured in a way that it would need to be adjusted after the 2015 campaign. Flacco’s salary cap figure is scheduled to rise from $14.55 million this season to a colossal $28.55 million in 2016.

Speaking with season-ticket holders in a phone forum, Bisciotti said the organization has mapped out a 2016 roster plan to account for Flacco’s gigantic number, but common sense suggests the contract must be adjusted if the Ravens are to remain competitive next season.

“I’m not real worried about it. I know he wants to stay,” Bisciotti said. “He’s obviously more appreciated in Baltimore, maybe, than he is league-wide, but I think that even the league is starting to come around. Look at a guy who has not missed a snap in seven years and has a wonderful record in fourth-quarter comebacks.”

The current deal will have paid the 30-year-old quarterback $62 million over the first three years, but its structure allowed the Ravens to keep more manageable cap figures of $6.8 million in 2013 and $14.8 million last season. But those cap numbers will skyrocket starting next year, which will prompt the sides to tack on additional years to the contract to even out the yearly cap figures to be more in line with the original annual average of $20.1 million.

Such maneuvering would allow Flacco to collect additional guaranteed money based off what he was already scheduled to make over the next few years while increasing the chances that he finishes his career in Baltimore.

“When we get into the offseason, we’re going to be looking to redo that deal and probably do it back at a six-year deal and flatten it out a little bit more than it was this first go-round,” Bisciotti said. “We were kind of in shock — I think the whole league was in shock — when the market was showing that it was $20 million a year. Quite frankly, we weren’t prepared to do that. We back-loaded them, so [the cap numbers] were more like [$14 million] and [$15 million] in the first few years and then that [$20 million] average jumps back up to over [$28 million or $27 million].”

Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season and has never made the Pro Bowl — he would have been taken as an alternate this past year if not for the birth of his third son — but he has the most road playoff wins in NFL history and the most wins (including the postseason) of any quarterback in the league since 2008.

Despite his confidence in extending his quarterback while easing the 2015 cap crunch, Bisciotti knows he’ll need to make the deal work for Flacco, who set career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27) in 2014.

His current deal also calls for cap figures of $31.15 million in 2017 and $24.75 million in 2018, further illustrating the need to find a middle ground with Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta.

“I don’t want to say untenable. It’s something we will make [work], but we can make it a win-win for Joe,” Bisciotti said. “Even though it’s only cost us $14 million or 15 million [on the cap the last couple years], because of the guarantees, I do believe he’s gotten, by the end of this year, half of that contract, somewhere around $60 million.

“I think he’ll be very amenable to a new deal. Then, it would be our job since we’ve already gotten $28 million fitted under that thing to flatten out those hits on our cap, so that they’re more consistent. I’m very confident that we’ll get it done, and Joe and his agent both acknowledged when we did the deal [in 2013] that we would be back at the negotiating table three years later. We certainly are just as interested in Joe as we were three years ago.”

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Ravens have lost benefit of doubt in taking chances with character

Posted on 20 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Less than a month ago, Steve Bisciotti said the Ravens “took a crash” last season with the Ray Rice saga and four other offseason arrests.

His comments were made in the midst of director of security Darren Sanders’ legals problems and a few weeks after the release of defensive tackle Terrence Cody (felony animal cruelty). Since Bisciotti suggested these kinds of off-field problems “come in waves,” cornerback Victor Hampton and running back Bernard Pierce were each arrested on driving under the influence charges and promptly released.

Any sliver of a benefit of the doubt that might have remained following a nightmarish 2014 calendar year is now gone, regardless of the extensive list of high-character individuals who do exist in the organization.

“In order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did,” Bisciotti said on Feb. 24. “Now, it’s about proving that it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case. Are we a little more aware? Yes, I think specifically if you go back to the Ray Rice thing, we certainly are more aware. We’ve been able to tap resources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity and our responsibility.”

There’s only so much that can be done to prevent current members of your organization from getting in trouble. You can look for gaps or needs in your player development program and try to monitor off-field behavior as much as you’d like, but they’re ultimately grown men who make their own choices.

The Ravens have followed through with Bisciotti’s mention of showing more responsibility by disposing of Cody, Hampton, and Pierce, even if they weren’t expected to be notable performers for the 2015 Ravens. It remains to be seen what would happen — and the Ravens hope they won’t be faced with the possibility — if a star performer were to be arrested.

But it would be even better if players — insignificant ones or not — weren’t finding trouble in the first place. Even after ridding themselves of the three players arrested this offseason, the stigma remains with the Ravens.

And that’s where the organization needs to be more proactive and vigilant with the player additions that they make, for reasons of both perception and reality. The Ravens have long taken pride in providing an environment for second chances, but they’re not in a position to do that right now.

“The one area we will definitely take a hard look – and it will be tough for us to bring a player to Baltimore – is someone who has domestic abuse in their background,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “Other than that, we’ll exhaust every character aspect of the player, but we believe in allowing the information to lead us to a decision when we deal with that. Our scouts do an unbelievable job of getting information when they are on the campuses.”

The standard needs to be higher with not only domestic violence concerns but in any matters that raise red flags away from the field. No breath can be wasted on draft prospects such as talent wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham or other outside additions with any inkling of past trouble.

It’s the current climate in which the organization is living in the wake of the last 13 months.

A few years ago, the Ravens enjoyed the benefit of the doubt in drafting a player with character concerns coming out of college like cornerback Jimmy Smith, but they’re no longer living in that world. While no one would have predicted what happened with Rice, let’s not pretend that Hampton and Pierce — the two most recently arrested — had spotless backgrounds.

Does staying away from questionable character narrow the talent pool? Yes, but not to the point where the Ravens won’t be able to compete given their ability to find good football players.

An isolated incident here or there is unavoidable, but eight player arrests in 13 months can’t be viewed as an aberration if you really care about your image.

The organization has a problem and must do better in bringing in players they can trust on and off the field.

Or the positive reputation the Ravens once enjoyed will be lost for good.


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Ravens trade five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ngata to Detroit

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

A nine-year run that included five Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl championship wasn’t enough to continue a relationship between the Ravens and longtime defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

The organization announced the trade of Ngata to the Detroit Lions on Tuesday afternoon, a move that will net the Ravens fourth and fifth-round selections in this year’s draft. General manager Ozzie Newsome will also send his 2015 seventh-round selection to the Lions.

Ngata had one season remaining on a five-year, $61 million contract that was signed in 2011. The 31-year-old was scheduled to make $8.5 million in base salary and to carry a $16 million salary cap figure, realities that were problematic for the Ravens this offseason. The move clears $8.5 million in much-needed space while leaving $7.5 million in dead money on the 2015 cap.

With Detroit losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins in free agency, Ngata will not only rejoin former Ravens assistants Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin in Detroit, but he will fill a major void on the Lions defensive line. The decision to trade Ngata also prevents him from joining an AFC rival, something that would have been possible had he been released. While two Day 3 draft selections aren’t a tremendous return for one of the best players in franchise history, the Ravens didn’t have great negotiating leverage considering most expected Ngata to be released if the sides didn’t work out a deal.

“Haloti has been an outstanding player for us for many years,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He consistently showed tremendous leadership in our locker room and on the field. At times, he was one of the NFL’s most dominant players.”

Since last year, Baltimore had explored a contract extension with Ngata to lessen his cap hit and afford him the opportunity to finish his career with the Ravens like future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis and current teammate Terrell Suggs, who signed a four-year, $20.7 million extension that included $16 million guaranteed last offseason. Instead, Ngata follows in the footsteps of safety Ed Reed and will now finish his career elsewhere.

Head coach John Harbaugh expressed strong optimism last month that the organization would get a deal done with Ngata, but members of the organization offered a more tempered approach two weeks ago during the “State of the Ravens” press conference.

“You go back to Suggs, we were able to successfully do that, which doesn’t guarantee that he retires as a Raven, but it certainly guaranteed that we would play him well into his 30s,” owner Steve Bisciotti said last month. “We were successful with Ray; we were unsuccessful with Ed. I put Haloti in that group of iconic players that helped us to get where we are as a franchise.”

The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata undoubtedly goes down as one of the most decorated players in franchise history with only Lewis (13), Jonathan Ogden (11), Reed (nine), and Suggs (six) making it to more Pro Bowls in their time with the Ravens. But it is fair to question how much longer he will continue to play at a high level after nagging injuries hindered his performance in 2012 and 2013.

A strong 2014 campaign certainly improved Ngata’s value in the eyes of the Ravens, but a four-game suspension for Adderall allowed the organization to get an extended look at 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan, who filled in admirably over the final month of the regular season before injuring his ankle in the regular-season finale. Jernigan and starting nose tackle Brandon Williams will now be expected to lead a defensive line that’s parted ways with Ngata and veteran Chris Canty this offseason.

The old adage of letting go of a player a year too early being preferable to a season or two too late applies in this case despite the void Ngata leaves behind in terms of both production on the field and leadership in the locker room. Even with Jernigan ready to step into a bigger role, the Ravens would benefit from adding another run-stuffing defensive tackle via the draft or free agency.

The 12th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Ngata was tied with punter Sam Koch for having the second-longest tenure with the Ravens behind Suggs. Going into the 2014 season, the University of Oregon product expressed hope that he would finish his career in Baltimore, but reports have indicated that Ngata and agent Mike McCartney weren’t willing to be as flexible as Suggs was in finding a compromise with the Ravens last winter.

“I would love to be a Raven for life,” Ngata said last June. “If we can get something done, that’d be great. We’ll just let my agent and Ozzie take care of that business off the field.”

In 2014, Ngata collected 31 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and seven pass breakups. His run of five consecutive Pro Bowl nods was snapped this past season after his suspension for Adderall, which the NFL considers a performance-enhancing drug.

The Ravens will be challenged in replacing Ngata’s ability against the run as they finished fifth or better in the NFL in run defense seven times and ranked eighth or better in yards per carry allowed in every one of Ngata’s nine seasons anchoring the defensive line. Baltimore also allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns and the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL during Ngata’s career.

He finishes with 445 tackles, 25 1/2 sacks, six forced fumbles, and five interceptions in his nine-year career with the Ravens.


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Seven takeaways from “State of the Ravens” press conference

Posted on 25 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ brass met with reporters Tuesday to review the 2014 season and look ahead at the offseason priorities for 2015.

Below are seven takeaways from what was discussed:

1. The Ravens made it clear they’re more than willing to walk away from wide receiver Torrey Smith.

You got the sense from general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti that the organization is not willing to break the bank for the 2011 second-round pick as the latter even mentioned how much the Miami Dolphins regretted paying speedy receiver Mike Wallace a couple years ago. You wonder if the Ravens were trying to show Smith some “tough love” negotiating tactics as he’s a couple weeks away from hitting the open market but has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore.

2. Running back Justin Forsett might be a higher priority than we thought.

Forsett will be 30 next season and many have wondered how much of his success was a product of an improved offensive line, but Newsome mentioning what kind of mentor the running back has been in his career was interesting with questions about how he’d be valued on the open market. The Ravens will look to add another young running back for the future, but it wouldn’t make sense for Newsome to offer such a compliment if he were trying to low-ball the veteran, who was such a great story in 2014.

3. We’re still waiting to hear about the future of defensive end Chris Canty.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he hasn’t spoken to the veteran defensive lineman since the end of the season when he told reporters he was contemplating retirement. You’d have to think the Ravens are trying to be respectful to the 32-year-old, who may be a salary-cap casualty if he decides to continue his career. Baltimore was in a similar position with veteran center Matt Birk a couple years ago and likely would have cut him had he not decided to retire in the offseason following Super Bowl XLVII.

4. If there were any lingering doubts, rush specialist Pernell McPhee won’t be returning to Baltimore.

Newsome couldn’t have been more clear unless he said, “We wish Pernell good luck in his future endeavors.” The 2011 fifth-round pick had a terrific season as a situation player this past season and is expected to cash in with a number of teams vying for his services. It will be interesting to see how McPhee handles a full-time role elsewhere as his cranky knees were an issue at a few different points during his run in Baltimore.

5. Safety Terrence Brooks is likely to start the 2015 season on the physically unable to perform list.

After suffering a serious knee injury in December, Brooks figured to be a question mark to begin the 2015 campaign and Newsome confirmed that on Tuesday. The 2014 third-round pick showed a few flashes while also making plenty of mistakes as a rookie, but it will be hard to count on him contributing more in his second year as he works his way back from injury. Much attention has been paid to the cornerback position, but it’s clear the Ravens need to add an impact safety this offseason.

6. Bisciotti experienced his worst year as the owner of the franchise.

It wasn’t surprising to hear the owner share the sentiment, but the conviction with which he spoke let you know just how bothered he was by the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests. Bisciotti quipped that he was off “suicide watch” and would have considered selling the team to Steve Ballmer last year, but he didn’t come across well in disputing the notion that the NFL had an image problem before team president Dick Cass saved him by pointing to the league’s concerns with domestic violence.

7. Newsome’s discussion about the Ravens secondary was disappointing.

Newsome is an excellent executive, but his thoughts on the secondary lacked accountability as he leaned on the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury. There’s no disputing that injuries played a role in last year’s woes, but many opined that the Ravens didn’t do enough last offseason to augment the unit after the free-agent loss of cornerback Corey Graham and long before the rash of injuries. Either way, actions will speak louder than words in how the Ravens address the defensive backfield.

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Five hot topics for “State of the Ravens” address

Posted on 23 February 2015 by Luke Jones

More than a month after their season-ending loss to New England in the divisional round, the Ravens will finally hold their annual “State of the Ravens” press conference Tuesday afternoon as they look back at last year and offer a look into their offseason plans to improve for 2015.

Below are five topics of interest that are likely to be covered at length:

1. Off-field conduct

A lingering Ray Rice question or two will be asked — particularly of team president Dick Cass, who hasn’t addressed the matter in a press conference setting — but the focus will likely fall on what the organization is doing to address off-field concerns that included five arrests last offseason and ex-Raven Terrence Cody and safety Will Hill already surfacing in the news over the last month. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged in January that the bar is higher in terms of expectations, but concerns will remain until the Ravens can show last year was an aberration and not a lack of organizational control.

2. The future of Haloti Ngata

The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s future and $16 million salary cap figure for 2015 have been dissected ad nauseam, but it will be interesting to listen to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s thoughts after Harbaugh expressed confidence last week that an extension would get done. Even though he ultimately inked linebacker Terrell Suggs to a new deal last winter, Newsome made it clear at last year’s “State of the Ravens” that he wasn’t afraid of letting a good player walk out the door. You wonder if we’ll hear a similar “bad cop” routine from Newsome to contrast Harbaugh’s optimism and put some heat on the veteran player.

3. Fixing the secondary

Newsome has often said you can never have too many good cornerbacks, but there’s no question the Ravens were lacking at that position last year even before the season-ending injury to top corner Jimmy Smith. Veteran Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million cap figure and is a likely candidate for a pay cut or a restructure deal, but the Ravens need to find a cornerback — maybe two — who is ready to step into a meaningful role. Safety might be an even bigger concern with Hill’s off-field baggage and the disappointing starts to the NFL careers of Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks.

4. Taking care of their own 

Much of this will hinge on a tight cap situation, but the Ravens proved last year that they were more concerned with taking care of their own than jumping into the free-agent market after re-signing Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Jacoby Jones. The Ravens would love to have wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels back next season, but how realistic is that with so few resources available? An offense that took major strides a year ago will already be dealing with new offensive coordinator, but it’s possible there will be significant player turnover as well.

5. Offseason surgical procedures and health concerns

Pitta’s future is bound to come up again after Harbaugh presented a less-than-encouraging update last week, but the end-of-season press conference typically brings updates on other players who’ve undergone offseason surgeries. The Sun reported earlier this month that center Jeremy Zuttah underwent a cleanup procedure for his hip, but the Ravens also have a number of players continuing to recover from season-ending injuries including Jimmy Smith, right tackle Rick Wagner, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, cornerback Asa Jackson, and Brooks.

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Ravens “respect” Jamal Lewis’ decision to sell Super Bowl ring

Posted on 09 February 2015 by Luke Jones

A day after news broke of former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis’ Super Bowl XLVII ring being auctioned off for $50,820, the organization publicly offered their support to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Ravens revealed the 35-year-old Ring of Honor member reached out to the organization regarding the matter. However, it is unclear whether Lewis talked to them before or after the ring was sold.

“Jamal Lewis informed us that he was forced to sell the Super Bowl XLVII ring due to financial difficulties,” the statement read. “We understand and respect his decision.”

Lewis was one of five Ring of Honor members to receive Super Bowl XLVII rings as a gift from owner Steve Bisciotti. The 2000 first-round pick filed for bankruptcy in 2012, less than three years after his NFL career came to an end.

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Bisciotti draws clear line in sand responding to ESPN report

Posted on 23 September 2014 by Luke Jones

If you listened to Steve Bisciotti’s words and read the Ravens’ lengthy response to the ESPN report accusing the organization of “purposeful misdirection” in its handling of the Ray Rice investigation, you were unlikely to feel dramatically different than you had entering Monday afternoon.

Short of documented proof of the organization securing a copy of the inside-elevator tape before the morning of Sept. 8, the saga has morphed into a case of “he said, she said” among the Ravens, the NFL, and Rice’s camp with the 100-percent truth somewhere in that abyss. Deciphering semantics, truths, half-truths, and outright lies from all involved parties hasn’t been easy for anyone trying to consume the story over the last seven months.

Most are going to believe what they want to believe by now.

But Bisciotti drew a clear line in the sand against the reporting of ESPN’s Don Van Natta and Kevin Van Valkenburg, emphatically claiming the story came from Rice’s attorney, agent, and friends invested in his appeal for NFL reinstatement. It’s a bold statement that will only encourage more digging from the media outlet — not to mention others — and could prove to be a fatal strategy should more be uncovered.

Taking nothing away from the journalistic work, the piece does present — at least in part — Rice’s side of the story, even with sources the reporters say are outside his camp. And, of course, Rice’s perspective needed to be presented, just like the Ravens and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have offered their accounts.

Unlike a fumbling and robotic Goodell speaking in New York last Friday, Bisciotti spoke with conviction — whether you believe him or not — and appeared human, at times charming and forthcoming when encouraging further questioning toward the end of his 48-minute press conference but also defiant and even dismissive of questions already answered in a release handed out to media just moments before the session began. The decision to issue the written response so close to the start of the press conference reeked of attempting to throw the media off-track and wasn’t a good look from a public relations standpoint.

The truth is Monday’s open forum with Bisciotti should have taken place two weeks ago in lieu of a few interviews with individual outlets in the days following Rice’s release. A press conference with the team’s owner should have happened long before the damning allegations were presented in the ESPN report last Friday.

“I’m sorry that we didn’t push harder to get that tape,” said Bisciotti, reiterating the same position he gave two weeks ago. “It seems to me, in hindsight, that we certainly had the leverage to say to Ray and his lawyer that we can’t have him play on our team until we see that last bit of evidence. That’s what we’re dealing with now.”

Whether subscribing fully to ESPN’s report of an egregious coverup or believing the Ravens’ account that essentially highlights the difference in perception between an open hand and a punch — should that have mattered anyway? — and makes the organization look incompetent at best, my mind keeps coming back to what Bisciotti said to The Sun the week of Rice’s release:

We kind of heard what we wanted to hear and imagined what we wanted to imagine because we loved Ray.

Even if the Ravens can successfully dispute the severity of some of the accusations presented in ESPN’s report, nothing said by Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, or head coach John Harbaugh has adequately refuted a position of — at best — willful ignorance throughout the ordeal. Bisciotti’s claim that he “wasn’t concerned or interested enough” to secure the video isn’t believable unless the Ravens truly wanted to remain in the dark beyond what was already written in the police report, what was seen in the first video released by TMZ, and what the accounts provided by Rice and head of security Darren Sanders said.

It was only after the second video came to light that the organization changed its tune. But Bisciotti’s words on Monday seemed to confirm it was all about public fallout and had little to do with their own horror of what happened in the elevator being worse than they claimed to have originally thought.

“If we had gotten the tape early on in the spring, and Roger had seen it, then I think that it would have been a precedent-setting, multi-game, maybe eight-game suspension, or maybe indefinite,” Bisciotti said. “I think it would have been something significant, and then that would have been taken out of our hands as a team, and we would have waited for Ray’s reinstatement, and maybe we wouldn’t have had to make a decision right then and there to cut him if he had been suspended indefinitely.

“But I believe that he would have a better chance of being forgiven [after] eight games or a whole year after that tape came out. If that tape came out in March or April, I don’t think people would have been aghast. I think that it would have raised the ire of the people, and I think Roger would have responded accordingly. And I think it would have been a one-time shot, and I think it would have been significant, but Ray would have been in the same position of, ‘Do we try and appeal it?'”

In the big picture, what’s done is done and while there are more chapters to come in this story, there’s no disputing the extensive — perhaps, irreparable — damage that the Ravens have done to their own reputation. Bisciotti says no one in the organization will lose their job in the fallout, but that’s only if there is no concrete evidence that implicates him or any other members of the Ravens’ brass in an alleged coverup.

The owner’s strong stance Monday put his organization further under the microscope for scrutiny and investigation than the Ravens had already been.

Telling the truth or not is one thing, but Bisciotti and the Ravens need to be positive a smoking gun isn’t waiting to be uncovered to bring them down.

“If all I can do is try and correct our wrongs and do what we think is right, that decision to cut Ray was that,” Bisciotti said. “I can’t please those people that think we didn’t do enough.”

For the sake of the Ravens, Bisciotti better know he did the right thing on Monday and didn’t simply escalate a battle that he ultimately won’t win.

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Ravens issue detailed written response to ESPN report

Posted on 22 September 2014 by WNST Staff


We at the Ravens have promised to be open, candid and transparent with our fans, sponsors, ticket holders, and the general public.

This past Friday, ESPN.com’s “Outside the Lines” feature ran a story entitled, Rice case: purposeful misdirection by the team, scant investigation by NFL.

Later that day, we released this statement: “The ESPN.com ‘Outside the Lines’ article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings. The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.”

What follows is our response. Many statements and allegations from the article are attributed to unnamed “sources” and people “close to” the Ravens. In our determination to maintain transparency, our responses are provided by those directly involved, and each is named.

1. From the article: (the reporters) found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.

Steve Bisciotti (Ravens Owner): “As I stated in our letter to you on September 9, we did not do all we should have done, and no amount of explanation can remedy that. But there has been no misdirection or misinformation by the Ravens. We have stated what we knew and what we thought throughout – from the original report of the incident, to the release of the first videotape, to the release of the second videotape, which revealed a much harsher reality. As we said in our response to ESPN’s questions on Friday, 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.”

2. From the article: But sources both affiliated and unaffiliated with the team tell “Outside the Lines” a different story: The Ravens’ head of security, (Darren) Sanders, heard a detailed description of the inside-elevator scene within hours and shared it with Ravens officials in Baltimore.

Darren Sanders (Director of Security): “I did not receive an account of what happened in the elevator “within hours” of the incident. Within a couple of days, I asked the casino and the Atlantic City Police Department for a copy of any videotape of the incident. They said they could not release a copy of the videotape to me. Some days later—I believe it was on February 25—I spoke to an Atlantic City police official again, asking again whether I could get a copy of the tape or, if not, whether I could come to his New Jersey office and view it. He said I could not, but he did offer to view the tape and describe what he saw. (As I understand it, he was describing a raw video, not the “cleaned up,” “smoothed . . . out” version that appeared on TMZ.) He said that Ray and Janay both appeared to be intoxicated, and that they were involved in a heated argument that began outside the elevator and continued inside. As he described it, Janay appeared to initiate the altercation, but they both spit at and struck each other, resulting in Janay falling and hitting her head against the wall railing. The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her. It was not clear from the officer’s account whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.”

3. From the article: …asked by the Sun whether the video matched what Rice had told them months earlier, Newsome conceded that it had. “You know, Ray had given a story to John [Harbaugh] and I,” Newsome said. “And what we saw on the video was what Ray said. Ray didn’t lie to me. He didn’t lie to me.”

Ozzie Newsome, (Ravens GM): “When I met with Ray to discuss the incident, 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.”

4. From the article: …the images (on the first videotape) horrified Ravens coach John Harbaugh, according to four sources inside and outside the organization. The Super Bowl-winning coach urged his bosses to release Rice immediately, especially if the team had evidence Rice had thrown a punch…

But Harbaugh’s recommendation to cut the six-year veteran running back was quickly rejected by Ravens management: owner Bisciotti, team president Cass and GM Newsome.

John Harbaugh (Ravens coach): “I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape. 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.”

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

5. From the article: “He motioned it to me,” (Kyle) Jakobe (trainer and friend of Ray Rice) said, making a closed fist and bringing it across his body. “He was like ‘Hey, this is what happened.'”

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

Darren Sanders: “Ray told me he slapped her. He denied punching her.”

6. From the article: “Ravens executives — in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome — began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended…”

Dick Cass: “That statement is not true. In February, Darren Sanders made contact with the police and the prosecutor in an effort to obtain a copy of the video. Apart from Darren’s efforts, no one from the Ravens ever spoke or communicated with a prosecutor, a judge or anyone else employed by the judicial system in New Jersey regarding Ray Rice, with one exception. At the request of Ray’s defense lawyer, Ozzie, John and I sent a letter addressed to the Clerk’s office in support of Ray’s application for pretrial intervention. The letter was largely devoted to describing Ray’s extensive efforts in the community. According to the article, our letter was one of 30 such letters.”

7. From the article: Michael J. Diamondstein, (Rice’s attorney), who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: “It’s f—ing horrible.” Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.

Later in the article: Diamondstein began a series of conversations with Cass, a lawyer as well as the Ravens team president, about strategy on how to resolve Rice’s criminal case as quickly, and as quietly, as possible, team sources and other sources say.

Dick Cass: “I believe Ray’s criminal defense attorney mentioned the video to me in late May around the time that the court granted Ray’s application for pretrial intervention. I don’t recall his precise words, but he did say the video looked terrible. I did not ask Ray’s attorney for a copy of the video. I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman. But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand. My view about the video was also influenced by the fact that the prosecutor and the judge agreed to the ultimate dismissal of all charges against Ray after seeing the video. We had decided several months before to leave fact finding to the court system and the League. As we have said, that was a mistake, and I regret it.”

“I did not urge Ray’s defense attorney to follow any particular course of action. I told his attorney that he should do what he felt was in the best interest of his client. I had never even heard of ‘pretrial intervention’ until Ray’s attorney explained it to me. So yes, I agreed with him that pretrial intervention was in Ray’s best interest. Who wouldn’t? It meant the ultimate dismissal of all criminal claims without a trial and the risk of a guilty verdict. Of course, I did not want a criminal trial because of all the adverse publicity associated with a celebrity trial. But I did not think that pretrial intervention would prevent the video from becoming public. I assumed that would eventually occur in any event.”

8. From the article: Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti. Four sources said Ravens executives, including Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome, urged Goodell and other league executives to give Rice no more than a two-game suspension, and that’s what Goodell did on July 24.

Steve Bisciotti: “I did not ask Roger Goodell to give Ray Rice no more than a two-game suspension. I did not make any request for a ‘favor’ or any particular outcome. I know and like Roger Goodell, but it is inaccurate to call us ‘good friends.’ The two of us have spent very little time together – as I recall, one round of golf and one dinner several years ago.”

Dick Cass: “I did not urge Roger Goodell or any other League official to take any particular action.”

Ozzie Newsome: “I never asked Mr. Goodell or anyone else at the NFL to do anything for Ray or for the Ravens.”

9. From the article: An avid golfer with a 10 handicap, Bisciotti played 27 holes on March 18 and another 27 holes on March 19 at Augusta National Golf Club, where he is not a member. Goodell, who is also an avid golfer, became an Augusta member in 2013. Goodell and Bisciotti have become good friends, and talk of golf is a lubricant of their friendship, several sources say.”

Steve Bisciotti: “I did not see or talk to Roger Goodell the entire time I was in Augusta.”

10. From the article: The Ray Rice case had become more serious. He now faced a potential prison sentence of three to five years. And yet, according to public statements made by Bisciotti and other team officials, the team decided at that point to stop seeking to obtain or even view a copy of the inside-elevator video.

Dick Cass: “We decided that we would await the outcome of the criminal case and the NFL disciplinary hearing and to leave the fact-finding to others. We should not have done that.”

11. From the article: Goodell presided over Rice’s disciplinary meeting. Ray and Janay Rice were accompanied by Newsome and Cass as well as by two NFLPA representatives. Goodell was joined by Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy, and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. Several former executives and lawyers who represent players and coaches before the league said a player or coach facing discipline is rarely accompanied by the team GM and the team president in a hearing before Goodell and league officials. A league source insists it has happened numerous times before, but he did not provide examples.

Dick Cass: “We did accompany Ray and have accompanied other players in the past. We believe that our actions are not uncommon around the league. The article notes, for example, that one of the owners of the Steelers accompanied Ben Roethlisberger when he met with the Commissioner.”

12. From the article: “One source who spoke to Cass said he heard at least two weeks before Goodell announced the penalty that Rice would receive only a two-game penalty.”

Dick Cass: “That is not true. Neither I nor anyone at the Ravens knew what the penalty would be until the Commissioner sent his letter to Ray on July 23. I did believe that a two-game suspension was one of the likely outcomes, because as far as I knew that was the maximum penalty that had been imposed in a case similar to Ray’s.”

13. From the article: When the second TMZ video was released early the next morning…That afternoon, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract….An hour after the Ravens released Rice, the NFL announced that Rice was suspended indefinitely.

Steve Bisciotti: “Yes, after seeing the second videotape, we took the pre-emptive step, ahead of the league, to do what we thought we had to do.”

Ozzie Newsome: “I had to tell Ray, and it was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever made.”

14. From the article: (After the Ravens released a letter to their season ticket-holders and sponsors explaining the steps they had taken…) Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at– back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

Steve Bisciotti: “I did have an exchange of text messages with Ray, which he initiated. I felt awful about what had happened. I believed he was, at heart, a good person, that he was capable of redemption, and I wanted to tell him I would be supportive of him. Here are the texts, not as told to someone and then misquoted in the article, but verbatim”:

Monday September 8, 7:44 pm

Ray: I understand the decision but I am thankful for what you have done for me and my family. Me and my wife will continue to work on us and being better but I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a chance

Steve: I’m sorry we had to do this. I still love you and believe that you will be a great husband and father If you ever need to talk just call

Tuesday September 9, 10:27 pm

Steve: I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you. We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives. When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!

Ray: I know it’s a rough time for all of us I love all of you and that will never change for life!

Steve: I will help you make it a great life indeed. I give you my WORD

Ray: That means the world to me and my family we greatly appreciate you and thank you.

15. From the article: A few days later, after thinking about it more, Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.

Steve Bisciotti: “I cannot believe that Ray ever thought I was suggesting he keep quiet, when he got the texts or later on. They were not an insult. To the contrary, I think he knew these were messages from the heart, as were his responses to me. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Everyone knows that, including Ray.”

As always, we endeavor to keep you, the public and the fans, fully informed, and we promise to continue to do so. We may all wish this incident to be put behind us, to concentrate on how we can learn from it and apply the lessons to a more aware and sensitive society, but as it continues to warrant attention, we will address it with the utmost candor and openness. We hope to live up to the support you have given us.

Stephen J. Bisciotti,

on behalf of the Baltimore Ravens organization

September 22, 2014

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