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CBS will cover Ray Rice story as 'Thursday Night Football' premieres with Ravens-Steelers

In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay

In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

CBS, which has been hyping the new "Thursday Night Football" package for months, now finds itself with a massive, unexpected dose of attention for the premiere of the series thanks to the saga of former Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The first game just happens to be Steelers at Ravens -- Baltimore's first since Monday's news that it had released Rice, followed by his indefinite suspension by the league.

Early on a conference call with reporters Monday to promote the game, both CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus and Brian Rolapp, the NFL's highest-ranking executive for TV matters, said the story would be covered Thursday night on both CBS and the NFL Network.

Then, just as analyst Phil Simms was about to answer a question about Rice, McManus interrupted to inform everyone on the call Rice had been released.

Simms, fellow CBS analyst Bill Cowher and NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders all agreed with the decision when asked about it by reporters on the call.

"The video was so graphic, so alarming, you figured something like this might happen," Simms said. "What can I say in words? Of course I'm appalled. It's really sad . . . I think the Ravens handled it the right way. I think they had no choice but to let Ray Rice go."

Added Cowher: "It was inexcusable and disturbing."

Said Sanders: "In light of what we saw, this had to be done ... I'm more really interested in what drives a person to that point. I'm just a prayerful guy and I wish to God we could reach out to him and get him help and healing for whatever he's dealing with."

New York Sports