NFL commissioner Roger Goodell notified the NFL Players Association in a letter Friday that the reason he changed Ray Rice's two-game suspension to an indefinite one was because Rice's description of his February fight with then-fiancee Janay Palmer was "starkly different" from what appeared on a video that was released Monday by TMZ Sports.
The players association has until Monday to decide whether to appeal the indefinite suspension.
A person who saw the letter said the commissioner believes the version given by Rice and Palmer (who now are married) on June 16 in New York did not reflect what the video showed. Rice was seen punching Palmer in the face with his left hand, a blow that caused her head to bounce off a railing on the back wall, rendering her unconscious.
The Ravens released Rice a few hours after the video was released, and the NFL announced a few minutes later that Rice had been suspended indefinitely. The NFL informed all 32 teams that no one was permitted to contact Rice about a contract until further notice, an NFL official told Newsday.
Goodell said in an interview on CBS on Tuesday that Rice had offered an "ambiguous" account of what actually happened.
On Thursday, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" quoted four sources saying that Rice had told Goodell he had punched Palmer. "Ray didn't lie to the commissioner," one of the "Outside the Lines" sources said. "He told the full truth to Goodell; he made it clear he had hit her, and he told Goodell he was sorry and that it wouldn't happen again."
Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti said in an interview on WBAL-TV in Baltimore on Wednesday that Rice told a different story.
"The way it was described to us was that he had hit her with an open hand and that she had hit her head," Bisciotti said. "We already knew that she had told the police that they had consumed an enormous amount of alcohol, like two bottles of hard liquor between four of them."
Ravens president Dick Cass said in a Wednesday interview with The Baltimore Sun that "there's a big difference between reading a report that says he knocked her unconscious or being told that someone had slapped someone and that she had hit her head. That is one version of the facts. That's what we understood to be the case. When you see the video, it just looks very different from what we understood the facts to be."
A Newsday source said that shortly after the Feb. 15 incident, the source was told by Rice that the running back was responding to what he considered aggressive moves by Palmer toward him in the elevator. The person said Rice admitted to striking Palmer twice but characterized her contact with the rail as an unintentional result of Rice hitting her the second time.
"The video told a completely different story from what Ray had said," the person said.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said "Ray didn't lie to me" when he was asked if the video matched what Rice had told him and coach John Harbaugh when they spoke after Rice was arrested.
"We had a meeting but also Ray and Janay and [Goodell] had a separate meeting and a story was told in that meeting," Newsome told the Sun on Sunday. "So what was said during the meeting between the three could have been a lot different from what was said when [we] were in a room together."
Former FBI director Robert Mueller, who was hired by the NFL, has begun an investigation into the league's handling of the Rice situation. The investigation will be overseen by Giants president and co-owner John Mara and Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney.