Tag Archive | "Steve Bisciotti"

Bisciotti draws clear line in sand responding to ESPN report

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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

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Ravens issue detailed written response to ESPN report

Posted on 22 September 2014 by WNST Staff

MESSAGE TO THE FANS FROM THE BALTIMORE RAVENS

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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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

On the same day in which a Ray Rice jersey exchange was held and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showed remorse without divulging any specifics in an afternoon press conference, a report attempted to shed light on the Ravens’ mishandling and potential coverup of the running back’s domestic violence incident.

According to an ESPN report, Ravens director of security Darren Sanders spoke to an Atlantic City police officer who’d watched the now-infamous video hours after the February incident and learned the explicit details of what transpired between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer. Sanders then relayed that information to team officials, but it remains unclear whom he spoke with directly.

Upon the TMZ release of the first video just four days after the incident, head coach John Harbaugh and senior personnel assistant George Kokinis reportedly recommended that the organization release Rice, but team owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and team president Dick Cass rejected the suggestion, instead choosing to stand by the troubled running back. After offensive lineman Jah Reid became the third Ravens player arrested in the offseason, Harbaugh again approached team officials about releasing Rice, Reid, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — the other player arrested in the offseason at that point — but was rejected again, according to ESPN.

The Ravens denied these allegations in a statement included in the ESPN piece saying, “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us.”

Harbaugh was the only member of the Ravens’ brass to meet with reporters on the day Rice’s contract was terminated.

The report does not indicate that the Ravens ever had a copy of the video showing what happened inside the elevator, but Cass spoke to Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, in early April after the defense team had acquired a copy of the elevator security video from the Revel Casino via subpoena. ESPN reports that Rice’s lawyer told Cass that what was on the video was “f—ing horrible” and it was apparent that “Ray knocked her the f— out.”

Cass reportedly never asked Diamondstein for a copy of the video — the NFL didn’t either — and instead continued to urge Rice’s defense team to gain acceptance for their client into a pretrial intervention program that would not only eliminate the possibility of prison time but prevent the elevator video from ever being made public.

ESPN cited four sources indicating that Ravens officials — including Bisciotti, Cass, and Newsome — continued to push for only a two-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in disciplining their star running back. The report also indicated that the organization believed Goodell had viewed the video, imploring Rice to tell the entire truth when he met with the commissioner in June.

Upon releasing Rice when the second video was released by TMZ on Sept. 8, Bisciotti sent Rice a text message stating the following:

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.

In an interview with The Sun last week, Newsome maintained that Rice had told the truth about what was on the graphic video throughout the process while Cass and Bisciotti have indicated in interviews that his story didn’t necessarily align with what they saw on the video for the first time on the morning of Sept. 8.

In a press conference held earlier in the day in New York, Goodell reiterated that he mishandled the Rice case with the initial two-game suspension handed down on July 25.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I’m sorry for that,” Goodell said. “The same mistakes can never be repeated.”

 

 

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Bisciotti letter to Ravens fans: “I am sorry we let you down”

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Bisciotti letter to Ravens fans: “I am sorry we let you down”

Posted on 09 September 2014 by WNST Staff

Ravens owners Steve Bisciotti broke his silence regarding the decision to release running back Ray Rice in a letter to personal seat license holders, sponsors, and suite owners on Tuesday. The full text appears below.

Dear Ravens Stakeholder:

You deserve an explanation.

What happened with the Ray Rice incident? How could it come to this? Why didn’t we act earlier?

As a PSL holder, suite owner, sponsor and supporter, you have a stake in us. You have invested in us — emotionally as well as financially, trusted us, and believed in us. We value that trust and owe you full disclosure.

First, let us say that we did not do all we should have done and no amount of explanation can remedy that. What we can do now is share with you everything that occurred and vow to learn from all that has happened.

Here is how the situation unfolded, and here are our thoughts behind the decisions we made.

On the morning of Feb. 15, we learned that Ray and his then fiancé, Janay, had been arrested at an Atlantic City casino, and both had been charged with “simple assault” resulting from an altercation with each other. After the couple was taken to police headquarters, and after a report was written, they were allowed to leave together.

A number of Ravens’ representatives talked with Ray during the course of that day. His explanation was that after he and Janay had consumed a great deal of alcohol, they had had an argument and that they struck each other.

We at the Ravens organization issued a statement to the media that we were aware of the incident, that we had talked with Ray, and that he deserved the due process of law.

We then began our own process to discover as much as we could about what happened. We talked with representatives of the casino, the police who arrested the couple, the prosecutor and a lawyer who represented both Ray and Janay in the case. Soon after, the video of Janay and Ray coming out of the elevator became public.

We contacted the casino management and asked if there was video of the incident from inside the elevator that we could see. The casino would not share such video. We asked the local New Jersey police and the police refused as well. We asked the prosecutor’s office and that office refused. It was our understanding at that time that Ray’s attorney had not yet seen the video. NFL officials had been informed, and we know they were also trying to retrieve and/or see the video.

Assessing the situation at of the end of February, this is what we knew: A player who had been a model citizen in the community and terrific teammate for six seasons had been charged with simple assault against his fiancé. At that time, his fiancé Janay had been similarly charged.

Ray and Janay both told us nothing like this had happened before. He was showing great remorse; they were meeting regularly with our team chaplain and were diligently attending couples counseling.

In March, the prosecutor dropped the case against Janay, but elevated the charge against Ray from simple assault to aggravated assault. At this point, we decided to defer action until completion of the court proceedings. We stopped seeking to view or obtain a copy of the video. We halted our fact-finding. That was a mistake on our part.

In May, the prosecutor recommended, and the judge agreed, that Ray should be accepted into a pre-trial intervention program that will eventually have the assault charge dismissed from his record, pending a year of good behavior.

The police had seen video from inside the elevator. The prosecutor and the judge, who had also seen such video, allowed Ray into the program that would eventually clear him of the assault charge.

On June 16, Ray and Janay met with Commissioner Roger Goodell, who then announced on July 27 that Ray Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the season. Ray subsequently met with the media and answered questions.

Yesterday morning Sept 8, all of us saw the video from inside the elevator. It is violent and horrifying. I immediately came to the office and called a meeting with Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and Kevin Byrne. The meeting was relatively short. The decision to let Ray Rice go was unanimous. Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong.

We are moving forward and believe we can help put more of a spotlight on intimate partner violence, while increasing education and awareness to this issue to all in our organization. Our recently announced partnership with the House of Ruth is a start.

We view ourselves as a family. Like families, we have used tough love in the past (fines, benching and releases) with repeat offenders. Because of his positive contributions on and off the field over the last six years, Ray had earned every benefit of the doubt from our organization. We took everything we knew and decided to support Ray Rice until we could not.

We hope that Ray will continue to work to be the best husband, father and person he can be, and he will turn this awful situation into something positive. We also have learned a great deal and will continue to strive to be an organization and team you and Baltimore will be proud of. I am sorry we let you down.

Sincerely,

Stephen J. Bisciotti
Owner

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Ravens to unveil Lewis statue outside M&T Bank Stadium Thursday morning

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Ravens to unveil Lewis statue outside M&T Bank Stadium Thursday morning

Posted on 03 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Just a few days before the Ravens begin their 19th season in Baltimore, they will officially honor the most decorated player in franchise history by unveiling a statue of retired middle linebacker Ray Lewis on Thursday morning.

Erected next to the statue of legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas outside M&T Bank Stadium, the Lewis statue has been in the works ever since team owner Steve Bisciotti announced his intentions of permanently honoring the future Hall of Fame linebacker at the end of the 2012 season. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 13-time Pro Bowl selection was the only Ravens player to be part of both Super Bowl championships, earning Most Valuable Player honors in Super Bowl XXXV and winning his second championship in the final game of his 17-year career.

Lewis will be eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

“Most times, I’m never at a loss for words, but that’s a very humbling thing,” Lewis said in late July while attending a training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium. “This is my home. I gave everything I had to city. To have a statue in this city, it means everything.”

The organization will hold on 11 a.m. ceremony at Unitas Plaza outside the stadium with Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and former teammates scheduled to attend in addition to friends and family of Lewis. The 39-year-old will speak from the podium during the ceremony, and sculptor Frederick Kail, who also made the Unitas statue, will be present.

Fans are invited to attend the event, which is scheduled to last roughly 15 minutes.

 

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice was never going to win when he finally broke his silence on Friday.

Making his first public comments since a domestic incident in an Atlantic City casino in February forever changed his life, the Ravens running back wasn’t going to find words to brighten the opinions of the many who are justifiably angry and he may never improve the feelings of some. The parameters of declining to answer questions and scheduling the session on a Friday afternoon entering a holiday weekend created skepticism before Rice and his wife, Janay, ever stepped in front of cameras at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills.

The missteps have already been picked apart, ranging from Rice fumbling with his phone to look at notes and offering an ill-suited analogy of getting up after being knocked down to his wife taking some responsibility for what happened — a public relations nightmare for a domestic violence incident — and the couple appearing distant with one another throughout the proceedings. What may have been a respectable desire to speak from the heart instead of reading a prepared statement was poorly executed as Rice has been known to occasionally ramble and speak in circles in his press conferences over the years.

But it was what he failed to say from the very beginning that ultimately doomed his first attempt to begin rebuilding his public image.

Oversight or not, Rice failed to directly and publicly apologize to his wife — the woman who sat next to him and in front of the entire world on Friday — while he expressed sorrow to others and spoke of his relationship with her growing stronger since the events of February 15. That’s not to assume the 27-year-old hasn’t apologized profusely to his wife in private, but if the goal of Friday’s event was to show his remorse and begin rehabilitating his image in the public eye, it needed to start with a direct appeal to the person impacted most by what happened at the Revel Casino.

Before apologizing to owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, or anyone else, Rice needed to show the world how much he loved the woman sitting next to him and how deeply sorry he was to her. Perhaps the intent was to present a strong and composed partnership between the two, but his lack of an immediate and personal apology to his wife at the beginning made the rest of his words ring hollow.

“As me and Janay wish we could take back 30 seconds of our life,” Rice said, “we definitely sit here today and tell you that we are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout the situation. And as our families sit here today, we want to just thank you for encouraging us.”

Even with the harsh criticism over what transpired Friday, Rice is fully capable of rehabilitating his image, but that won’t happen overnight. His actions over time and how they impact his wife, family, and others close to him will be the deciding factor while his words on Friday — awkward as they were — carry little weight in the big picture.

Some may eventually forgive him and others will not, but Rice has the ability to make things right in his own life by simply following through on his vows of being a better husband, father, and role model. If he does that in the coming years, lingering criticism from the outside world won’t really matter.

The image of Rice dragging what appeared to be his unconscious fiancée from an elevator will never disappear — reports swirled on Friday afternoon that the seventh-year running back is expected to receive a multi-game suspension from the NFL — but the details about what preceded the events in that disturbing video may never fully come to light.

“There were a lot of tears shed, but me and Janay can truly say that we’re in a better place,” Rice said. “Hopefully, one day, I’ll gain back everyone’s trust to let you all know that we’re still the same people, and I’m still the same person. I really treat my job as a very special job, and I failed miserably. But I wouldn’t call myself a failure, because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice only needs to look to former teammate and close friend Ray Lewis as a notable example of rebuilding one’s image and regaining that trust.

It can be done, but his first attempt to begin that process on Friday was an obvious setback.

The other missteps were always going to be picked apart, but his failure to publicly and directly apologize to his wife from the very beginning was the colossal gaffe that will be difficult to forget.

 

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Echoing the sentiments offered by head coach John Harbaugh and general Ozzie Newsome in recent weeks, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti offered his support to running back Ray Rice and reiterated that he will be part of the team in 2014.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun as the league meetings commenced in Orlando on Monday, Bisciotti described the incident as “disappointing” and one that the running back will live with for the rest of his life, but Rice’s future with the organization — at least for the upcoming season — isn’t in jeopardy regardless of how the legal situation is resolved. Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence in mid-February after the two allegedly struck one another with their hands.

“Ray will be here,” Bisciotti said. “This is a singular moment six years after we drafted him. It’s embarrassing for him and his fiancée. It is especially hard to see somebody that is proud of his reputation have to take this kind of public-relations hit.”

Atlantic City police referred the case to the county prosecutor’s office for review, but there’s been no update if any additional or different charges have been filed.

NOTES: The Ravens awarded Harbaugh with an extra year on his current contract, extending him through the 2017 season. Bisciotti said he offered an extra year to his head coach as a show of support that nothing has changed in his mind despite Baltimore missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2007. … Bisciotti also confirmed the Ravens will honor future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis with a statue planned to be unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium before the start of the 2014 season. The likeness of Lewis will stand in Unitas Plaza.

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

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Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Luke Jones

After more than two months of preparation following a disappointing 8-8 season, the Ravens will officially see offseason business pick up with the start of free agency on Tuesday afternoon.

General manager Ozzie Newsome has already taken care of two of his own — signing linebacker Terrell Suggs and tight end Dennis Pitta to long-term contracts — as well as parted ways with two key veterans — linebacker Jameel McClain and fullback Vonta Leach — but plenty of work remains as the Ravens try to rebound from the first non-playoff campaign of the John Harbaugh era. Even with roughly $25 million in salary cap space prior to the tendering of exclusive-rights and restricted free agents, the concerns are plentiful with gaping holes on the offensive line as well as needs at wide receiver, free safety, and inside linebacker.

Just 13 months removed from their second Super Bowl title, the Ravens are facing heat to bounce back from a failed season in their eyes, but the cupboard is far from bare considering they were just one win away from the postseason despite their many issues — particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Pitta returning next season at full strength as well as the addition of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will be viewed by many as instant improvements for an offense that finished 29th in the NFL last season.

“There are teams that are a whole lot more disappointed,” owner Steve Bisciotti said at the season-ending press conference. “If we found ourselves at 3-13, like the Falcons, then I think that they’re sitting there thinking, ‘We’ve got to make a lot of changes.’ I really don’t think that we do. If 8-8 is a failure, I hope it’s a long time before I feel worse than this. That’s just the way it goes.”

With the offseason ready to kick into high gear as teams can begin negotiating with other free agents this weekend before the market officially opens for business at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, here are a few themes to remember between now and the start of the 2014 season:

1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

With a few rare exceptions such as the quick signings of wide receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle in 2005, the Ravens haven’t been swift to act in free agency, instead allowing other teams to overspend in an effort to make a splash in March.

This lesson is forgotten annually as many confuse Newsome’s methodical ways with hesitancy and indecision. The temptation can be strong to throw money at a top wide receiver such as Hakeem Nicks or Eric Decker or a top offensive tackle like Branden Albert or Jared Veldheer, but the market will be full of potential suitors for their services, potentially driving up the price to unreasonable levels.

Typically, the best free-agent value comes in the second and third wave of activity where the Ravens pride themselves in identifying so-called “80-20″ guys who theoretically provide 80 percent of the production of an incumbent or marquee free agent for 20 percent of the cost. Examples of such players might be Cincinnati left tackle Anthony Collins or a cheaper slot option such as Philadelphia’s Jason Avant who could presumably be coupled with a rookie in the draft.

The abundance of cap space now compared to recent years provides flexibility but encourages stupidity if you’re not careful. Newsome made it clear in January that the Ravens have every intention of adding an impact wide receiver and laid out the avenues in which that goal — along with others — can be achieved.

“That player will be available between now [and September], whether it’s in free agency, whether he’s a cap casualty, whether it’s in the draft or whether it’s through trade,” Newsome said. “There is no reason that he might not be here at the beginning of the season, but I always try to leave myself a little leeway to give us a chance to get it right.”

Remember that there’s no Lombardi awarded in mid-March.

2. Use all outlets in moderation.

It isn’t solely about re-signing your own free agents, playing the open market, looking for trades, or relying on the draft.

Everything in moderation.

We’ve already seen this play out to some degree as the Ravens elected not to use the franchise tag on left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is reportedly looking for upwards of $10 million per season. Even after giving up fourth- and fifth-round picks last October to acquire the former Jaguars tackle, the Ravens simply didn’t feel Monroe was worth the $11.65 million franchise tag tender and are likely to lose him as a result of not seeing eye to eye over his value.

“If things don’t happen before Tuesday, then we’re going to have to build a team the way we build it in other directions,” Harbaugh said. “But we’re working really hard to get that done right now. We want to keep our guys, and we want our guys to be here just like Dennis. We want to keep those guys.”

Beyond Monroe, the Ravens would like to keep inside linebacker Daryl Smith and a couple others such as wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cornerback Corey Graham, but you can’t fall in love with your own players in the same way that you don’t want to throw lucrative money at a free agent on the first day of business. It’s for this reason that Baltimore is pretty much resigned to the idea of defensive tackle Arthur Jones walking away for a bigger contract elsewhere since Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore are waiting in the wings and they have many needs elsewhere.

Though patience is key, the Ravens shouldn’t — and can’t — wait until the draft and expect their many positional needs to be filled with only four scheduled picks as well as four anticipated compensatory picks.

Again, rely on everything in moderation.

3. Don’t alter how you value players because of a greater amount of salary cap space.

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Truth — Bisciotti wouldn’t have minded a college coordinator for O.C.

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Truth — Bisciotti wouldn’t have minded a college coordinator for O.C.

Posted on 06 February 2014 by Drew Forrester

An interesting after-story has surfaced in the Ravens’ search for a new offensive coordinator.

It turns out owner Steve Bisciotti did, in fact, have a specific suggestion for John Harbaugh, but as we all now know, it wasn’t Gary Kubiak.

Bisciotti wanted Harbaugh to look away from the NFL and at least consider bringing in the “new hot offensive commodity” from the college ranks. His only suggestion in the hiring process of the offensive coordinator was, according to a source, “don’t just assume you have to hire someone from within the NFL in order for this to work.  Look at the new guy.  Don’t be afraid to find someone with new, fresh ideas.”

Interestingly enough, the 2008 coaching search in Baltimore focused on several “fresh” names, including Harbaugh, Jason Garrett, Brian Schottenheimer, Jim Caldwell and Rob Chudzinski.  Folks who remmeber that search will recall the “retread” name everyone  immediately brought up was Marty Schottenheimer, but he was never even seriously considered by the search committee.

“Steve loved the process we used to uncover John (Harbaugh),” says a team source.  ”It delighted Steve that we went away from the tried-and-true and hired a guy with no head coaching experience and it turned out to be such a great hire for the organization.”

It’s assumed based on the term “new hot offensive commodity” that Bisciotti’s formula would have perhaps included Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee.  As it turned out, Harbaugh went in a different direction entirely and scooped up unemployed Gary Kubiak to run his team’s offense in 2014.

Harbaugh, in fact, confirmed this element of the coordinator search during last Friday’s live interview with WNST from Super Bowl 48.  You can hear that interview here, and hear the head coach acknowledge that Bisciotti pushed for the consideration of a college coordinator or coach to take over the Ravens offensive opening.

“Steve wouldn’t ever stand up in the room and say, ‘This is the guy you’re going to hire’, because it’s just not his style.  But, he’s a big believer in looking everywhere for new people.  That’s what his core business has always been about and it’s a great way for any company to go about hiring new employees.”

Bisciotti didn’t get his way this go-round, as the hiring of Kubiak and Rick Dennison (plus a handful of other Texans’ staffers) was simply too good to pass up for a Ravens organization desperate for a new offensive philosophy.

But the process is worth remembering, as it once again reminds everyone that the Ravens are always capable of doing something different.

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Harbaugh fires back at detractors over coodinator search

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Harbaugh fires back at detractors over coodinator search

Posted on 01 February 2014 by Luke Jones

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has heard the criticism in recent days about a perceived track record of hiring unqualified coaches and how he was allegedly overruled by owner Steve Bisciotti in the process of finding new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

He fired back at his critics in an exclusive interview with WNST.net in New York on Friday afternoon where he was accepting the NFL’s Salute to Service award this weekend.

“It’s definitely insulting; it’s really stupid,” Harbaugh said. “It’s reflective of not knowing the facts. People who are putting it out there know darn well what they’re saying and they know it’s not true.”

Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the fact that he communicated regularly with Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome throughout the process as he does on a variety of matters related to the organization. Many have assumed that Bisciotti was enamored with hiring a big name such as Kubiak or longtime NFL offensive coodinator Norv Turner, but the owner wanted to be thorough enough to potentially “find the guy that nobody had ever heard of before,” according to Harbaugh.

This led the seventh-year head coach to consider a number of college names as he looked at upwards of 30 potential candidates for the job Kubiak ultimately won. After previously working under the assumption that Kubiak wouldn’t be interested in the position, Harbaugh reiterated that it was a conversation with new quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison — originally about former Washington Redskins offenive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — that prompted a call to Kubiak and set the wheels in motion for the former Houston Texans coach to be hired for the coordinator job.

Bisciotti remained in the loop and offered insight along the way but never gave the directive of who to hire, according Harbaugh.

“Of course he’s going to have a lot of insight into that,” Harbaugh said. “You’d be pretty dumb not to listen to it. Steve and I talked probably through that process more than we usually do. He knew what was going on, who we were interviewing [and was] asking me questions. ‘Have you talked to this guy? Have you talked to that guy? Why haven’t you talked to him? Are you going to talk to him?’ He wanted to know all of that.

“His biggest piece of advice was if you weren’t going to hire right away out of the gates and you didn’t know who you had, then take a thorough process on very similar to the one that [the Ravens] used when they hired me in 2008. He kind of laid out to me how that works. That was really great and very helpful in terms of how to go about doing it. That was really it. He didn’t give me any interview questions or anything like that, and he certainly didn’t say who to hire.

“Steve Bisciotti would never do something like that, and not very many coaches in this league would stand for something like that. That’s not what it’s about.”

In addition to Kubiak and Dennison, new tight ends coach Brian Pariani is coming over from the former Texans staff, but Harbaugh refuted reports that other Texans assistants would be coming to Baltimore to fill the vacant running backs coach and wide receivers coach openings.

Harbaugh said Kubiak identified Dennison and Pariani as assistants he would need to help install and teach his offensive system, but the Ravens will look at “some younger guys” for the remaining two openings instead of hiring other former Houston assistants.

In addition to shooting down reports about Bisciotti and Newsome going over his head to hire Kubiak, Harbaugh took exception to the criticism of his track record hiring assistant coaches as many have used offensive line coach Juan Castillo as a damning example and predicted that he would tab wide receivers coach Jim Hostler as the new offensive coordinator despite his unsuccessful one-year stint with San Francisco in 2007.

The 51-year-old coach reminded that he’s hired a number of former or future NFL head coaches as assistants, ranging from Rex Ryan, Cam Cameron, and Chuck Pagano to Jim Caldwell, Jim Zorn, and Steve Spagnuolo. Kubiak became the Ravens’ first external hire for a coordinator position since Cameron was selected as Harbaugh’s first offensive coordinator in 2008.

“I want to have the best coaches we possibly can,” Harbaugh said. “If you go back over the last six years all told, it’d be hard to find a better six years of coaching staffs than the Ravens have had. Criticize me the other way –- say that I need great coaches around me to be successful. But don’t say that I’m hiring bad coaches or guys that won’t speak their opinion.”

To hear Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s entire conversation with WNST.net on Radio Row in New York, click HERE.

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