The NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith for the first four games of the season, the team announced Tuesday, for violating its personal conduct policy. The Ravens said that the league had found “evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors” by Smith toward a former girlfriend, and the eighth-year player apologized for his “past actions.”
The suspension follows allegations made in a child custody dispute between Smith, 30, and Micaela Sanchez, the mother of a young child of his. In a petition filed in a Baltimore County circuit court in November, Sanchez accused Smith of having a “history of being physically violent” toward her and of using drugs, including when the child was at his home.
In his own court filing at the time (per the Baltimore Sun), Smith denied “any ‘history’ ” of domestic violence or of substance abuse. “There’s no truth to it,” he said then after a Ravens practice.
On Tuesday, Smith, who has since become engaged to another woman, said in a statement posted on the Ravens’ website, “I would like to sincerely apologize to my former girlfriend, the NFL, the Ravens organization, my coaches, my teammates, my fiancée and all our fans. I’m very disappointed that my past actions have led to this suspension. I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience.
“I believe I am, and will continue to try to be, a better person and a better father because of this. I am committed to being the best I can be, both on and off the field.”
“The NFL found evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors by Jimmy toward his former girlfriend that showed a pattern of improper conduct,” the Ravens said in a statement. “Our player’s behavior was inappropriate and wrong.”
The team, which in 2014 released former star running back Ray Rice amid his domestic violence scandal, said that it would “allow Jimmy to return” when his suspension ends. The Ravens said they came to that decision after consulting with “relationship and domestic violence experts,” as well as with “a group of Ravens women and men executives, not directly involved with our football operations.”
“Additionally, it is our understanding that following a long-running and difficult custody dispute with his former girlfriend and mother of his son, Jimmy has resolved his custody and support issues,” the Ravens said. “Jimmy has assured us that he is fully dedicated to making this change. He also understands the consequences if he does not.”
Smith is set to miss games against the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, and he can return in time for a matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 7. At that point, he will not have played in a regular season game for over 10 months, having torn his Achilles’ tendon in a Dec. 3 win over the Detroit Lions.
The day after that, Smith was suspended for the final four games of the 2017 season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He served that ban while coping with his injury, and he has made a quick enough recovery to have played in a preseason game earlier this month.
Smith, a first-round pick by Baltimore in 2011, will be eligible to play in preseason games and participate in practices until Sept. 1, when his suspension begins. He said Tuesday that he is taking “full responsibility for my past conduct.”
“Moving forward, I will work with the NFL and the Ravens to ensure that what happened in the past will never happen again,” he said. “I will take all necessary steps to be a positive role model for both my sons, for the NFL and for the entire Ravens community.”
“Jimmy has acknowledged his behaviors were wrong and accepts full responsibility for them,” the Ravens said. “He has completed a clinical evaluation and has agreed to undertake any follow-up care or treatment that may be recommended. Through our conversations with Jimmy, we believe he is taking the proper steps to improve and that he can change.”
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