By Daniel Johnson, Staff Writer
Published in print Aug.20, 2014
Since the Super Bowl, 25 NFL players have been arrested this offseason. Five of the twenty five players have been members of the Baltimore Ravens.
The only Raven’s player to be suspended for their arrest was running back Ray Rice. He was handed a two game suspension after being arrested following an incident where he was charged with domestic violence against his then fiancé now wife. Rice’s case has been particularly noteworthy since in the days following the February arrest, a videotape of Rice dragging his unconscious partner out of an elevator surfaced on the web.
Many people have found the suspension too light for the horrible crime. Rice’s punishment has been closely compared to Cleveland Browns star Josh Gordon who was given a yearlong suspension for a second failed drug test for marijuana use early in the off-season.
In fact, this past off-season has seen 20 players suspended for failed drug tests with Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe most recently suspended one game for marijuana possession on August 15 from a charge stemming from a November arrest.
The brunt of the criticism over the situation has fallen on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In the beginning of his eight-year reign, Goodell became known for tough justice in a league with “Wild West” behavioral tendencies.
However, after one particular scandal Commissioner Goodell has grown softer in the punishments he gives players for violating the league’s conduct policy. After the 2011 season, the NFL launched an investigation over allegations of players on the New Orleans Saints’ defense gaining monetary benefits (bounties) by intentionally knocking specific players unconscious during games.
The investigation concluded with the alleged ringleaders, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams being suspended the 2012 season.
The commissioner was unable to get most of the punishments to stick. Following a series of appeals and lawsuits filed by the NFL Players Association, Goodell was forced to vacate the punishments for all four involved in December of 2012.
This was not only a humiliation to the league’s office and Goodell, but it also showed the NFLPA and the players have proven the ability negate the commissioner’s decisions if they are deemed unjust.
Since the original suspensions were handed down for the “BountyGate” Scandal following the 2011 season, Goodell has only issued three multi game suspensions that did not involve a player failing the league’s drug policy. Aaron Berry in 2012 and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito last season prior to Rice were the only ones to receive this multi-game punishment from the Commissioner’s office.
Prior to the suspension being handed down, Rice met with Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the punishment. Those closely following the story believed Goodell’s suspension was to be closer to four to six games.
Yet, the only people who actually know what was discussed in that meeting were Goodell and Ray Rice.
Whatever was discussed between Goodell and Rice, it was clear that this incident has been a black mark on the NFL even before actually games have begun. On the cusp of the 2013 NFL season, Rice was one of the best players in the game, and was coming off a year where he was a major piece in the Ravens’ championship season.
However, today Rice is coming off his worst professional season since his rookie year. His team missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and his reputation has taken a massive hit.
Though he only has a two game suspension, the name Ray Rice no longer is synonymous with tremendous catches and runs, but instead, a disturbing video of Janay Palmer Rice’s unresponsive body being dragged out of an elevator.