OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some thoughts and observations from the Baltimore Ravens’ training camp practice here Thursday:
Support For Rice: The staunch support that tailback Ray Rice has received from his teammates and other members of the franchise throughout the public uproar about his two-game suspension by the NFL isn’t just for show. It is genuine and Rice clearly remains well liked within the organization in the aftermath of the domestic violence incident in February in Atlantic City involving his now-wife, Janay.
Team officials say they aren’t condoning what Rice did but they don’t want to abandon him. Teammates say they want to do what they can to help him but, for the most part, the issue isn’t discussed among them.
“It’s never gonna be a problem inside the building,” fellow Ravens running back Bernard Pierce said Thursday. “We leave our problems at the door. You come in here, it should be business, should be working. So anything besides that, we just tune it out. This is our place of work.”
Many of Rice’s teammates stood behind the large gathering of media members that surrounded Rice during his approximately 17-minute news conference Thursday.
“I think he’s handling it pretty well,” Pierce said. “Like I said, we come in here and work. There’s no [talk] of it. Of course the media is always gonna be involved and the TV is always gonna be playing. But besides that, this is a work environment. Everybody in this building is brothers. Being brothers, we’re gonna always support each other.”
Rice’s Comments: Rice said the right things Thursday, calling his actions “totally inexcusable” and issuing a public apology to his wife.
As he acknowledged, what matters from this point on is his actions. But this, perhaps, was at least a start.
Rice talked about how his mother had raised him and said: “I let her down. I let my wife down. I let my daughter down. I let my wife’s parents down. I let the whole Baltimore community down. And I got my teammates here to support me — I let my teammates down. I let so many people down because of 30 seconds in my life that I know I can’t take back.”
Rice was asked twice about details of the incident and twice refused to discuss them. But he said he’d never been involved in a previous incident of domestic violence. He spoke of someday having to explain to his daughter, now 2 years old, what happened. He vowed to do what he can to help others affected by domestic violence.
The NFL, in truth, did Rice no favors by taking disciplinary action so many observers have deemed insufficient. Rice stood to lose more money and playing time with a longer suspension, but more significantly, the two-game suspension intensified the controversy and generated more public scorn for all involved. Public forgiveness in America is so much more difficult to secure when the widespread belief is that someone has gotten away largely unpunished.
Rice sidestepped questions Thursday about the league’s decision, saying that was out of his control. But he said he would not have appealed a suspension of any length. He also said he has readied himself for what he is likely to encounter from less forgiving fans of other NFL teams.
“I’m prepared for the worst,” he said. “But that’s something I brought upon myself.”
Steve Smith: Yes, he’s 35 years old and entering his 14th NFL season. He’s coming off a 2013 season with the Carolina Panthers in which he had a modest — for him — 745 receiving yards. But Smith just might be an asset for quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens as they try to bounce back from last season’s disappointments.
Smith looked quick and fully engaged during Thursday’s practice. One leaping catch, in particular, was an attention-grabber. No one should expect him to be the dominant receiver who topped 1,300 receiving yards three times in Carolina. But he doesn’t need to be a focal point of the offense with the Ravens. He merely needs to be a contributor, and there’s a chance that the Ravens’ signing of him in March could end up looking like a wise move.