Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti refuted statements in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" article published Friday that suggested the team attempted to persuade NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to show leniency when disciplining running back Ray Rice for his role in a domestic violence incident on Feb. 15.
In a 45-minute news conference that followed the release of a statement outlining a point-by-point rebuttal to the article, Bisciotti said the team did not try to pressure the league to suspend Rice for only two games. Bisciotti also denied that he offered Rice a job with the Ravens after his NFL career ended to essentially keep Rice quiet about details of the incident that the Ravens allegedly were covering up. Bisciotti said the team did not use "misdirection" or "misinformation" about the case, as the article suggested.
Rice initially was suspended two games in July, but after the posting of a video showing him punching his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, the Ravens released him. The NFL almost immediately suspended Rice indefinitely, prohibiting him from signing with another team. Rice appealed the suspension Friday.
"[ESPN's] accusations didn't jibe with what we know is fact," said Bisciotti, who said he originally expected Rice to be banned for four or six games. "What's obvious is the majority of the sources work for Ray . . . They are building a case for reinstatement.''
ESPN OTL reporter Don Van Natta, appearing on the network after Bisciotti's news conference, said more than 20 sources -- including team officials, league officials, NFL union representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice -- were interviewed for the story.
"Unfortunately, it's an assumption [Bisciotti] is making," Van Natta said. "It's an oversimplification of the work we put into this story."
An ESPN spokesman said, "We stand by our reporting."
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who said in a Baltimore Sun article published last week that "Ray didn't lie" when the running back told him about the incident, said Rice didn't admit to punching Palmer. Newsome's initial quote raised speculation that Rice had, in fact, told the team that he punched Palmer.
"When I met with Ray to discuss the incident, I asked him one question: 'Did you hit her?' " Newsome said in a statement released by the Ravens. "[Rice] responded: 'Yes.' Ray and I didn't discuss details beyond that . . . 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."
According to the ESPN report, the Ravens believed Newsome's account would "fortify the team's argument to Goodell that Rice should be given a suspension of fewer games."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh denied he wanted Rice released after the first video surfaced, as the article stated.
"I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape," Harbaugh said in the statement. "When I saw the second videotape , I immediately felt that we needed to release Ray."
Bisciotti admitted the team didn't do all it should have done during its investigation of Rice's situation. He said that once law enforcement authorities dropped misdemeanor assault charges against Palmer and began to pursue felony assault charges against Rice, the Ravens decided to allow the legal process to play out before determining any disciplinary measures.
"We did not do all we should have done, and no amount of explanation can remedy that," Bisciotti said. "But there has been no misdirection or misinformation by the Ravens. We have stated what we knew and what we thought throughout."