It was obvious that Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn’t like his organization’s integrity being questioned.
On Monday, he sat down (didn’t use a lectern) to talk with sports reporters about last week’s ESPN report that implied the Ravens’ top brass knew early on how bad the Ray Rice domestic violence case was and the team tried to influence Roger Goodell to give the running back a light penalty.
While denying that was the case, Bisciotti did admit again that he and the team should have done more to get the video that led to Rice being axed by his Ravens and suspended by the NFL.
Bisciotti spoke for 47 minutes, at one point telling a media relations person who wanted to end the news conference that it was OK to keep going.
Here are five key points we learned from the owner’s candid discussion and the letter to fans that the Ravens issued tackling 15 points from the ESPN report that it disputed.
Who were the sources for the story?
Bisciotti told reporters that he believed Ray Rice’s people were most of the unnamed sources for the story as part of their attempt to get his indefinite suspension overturned.
“Almost everything in (the article) is anonymous but it’s clear from the subject matter it’s Ray’s attorney, Ray’s agent and Ray’s friends. They are building a case for reinstatement and the best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everyone else look like they’re lying.”
The Ravens owner said he wished the reporters for ESPN — which issued a statement: “We stand by our reporting” — had acknowledged to readers how big a role Rice’s camp played in the story.
In its report it said: “‘Outside the Lines’ interviewed more than 20 sources … team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice.”
Bisciotti claimed some of those friends “started making things up.”
ESPN investigative reporter Don Van Natta appeared on “Outside the Lines” after Bisciotti made his claims and said they were false.
“It’s an assumption he’s making … but it’s unfortunately just not true,” he said.
When did the Ravens know what was on the in-elevator video?
It’s the damning piece of evidence that got Rice fired and suspended indefinitely. He is appealing through the players’ union. The video from inside the elevator at a New Jersey casino shows Ray Rice in the early morning hours of February 15 knocking out his future wife with a vicious punch to the head. TMZ Sports posted what it says was a cleaned up version of the recording. ESPN reported that Ravens Director of Security Darren Sanders knew within hours of the incident what was on the video, through a report given to him by a police officer in Atlantic City.
This conflicts with what the Ravens have said about when they knew what was on the video.
Through the team’s statement, Sanders said it was 10 days later when a police official described the video.
“The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her,” Sanders said, without elaborating when Rice described the incident to him.
The Ravens stopped pursuing the video when the charge against Rice was elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. Bisciotti said it was a mistake to defer to prosecutors investigating the case and that at some point the Ravens should have demanded the video from Rice’s attorney.
What did Ray say happened?
It’s a key point of contention. ESPN cited sources in this report and another that Rice told the Ravens and NFL officials that he punched Janay Palmer, his fiancee whom he married a month after the incident.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said his original two-game suspension of Rice was in part based on the player’s misleading testimony during a June meeting.
The Ravens also said Rice wasn’t forthcoming.
“It was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground,” Bisciotti said in the team statement.
Sanders said Rice denied punching his fiancee. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome was quoted in the Baltimore Sun that the video showed that Rice didn’t lie to him. He said Monday that he had only asked Rice if he had hit Palmer and Rice said he had.
“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,” he said in the Ravens’ release.
Did the Ravens ask prosecutors and the NFL to go easy?
Team President Dick Cass said that Sanders was the only person from the team to make contact with anyone in the New Jersey judicial or law enforcement investigations. The only thing anyone from the team did outside of requesting the video was to write a letter in support of Ray Rice that was included in his application for a pretrial intervention program.
Bisciotti was upset by the implication that he and Goodell are buddies who share a love for golf and that the owner used a connection to ask for a favor.
“I know and like Roger Goodell, but it is inaccurate to call us ‘good friends,'” he said in the statement.
The owner said his communication with the commissioner consisted of a brief conversation at an owners’ meeting.
“One time I saw Roger at the NFL meetings, and I said, ‘Where are we with this?’ and he said, ‘Nowhere until the police investigation is concluded.’ That’s the extent of what I did at that time,” Bisciotti said.
Could Rice rejoin the Ravens?
Yes, but not on the field, Bisciotti told reporters.
He talked about text messages he sent to Rice on the day the Ravens let him go:
Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.
When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.
The ESPN report indicated Rice thought the job offer was a bid to have Rice go along with the Ravens’ version of events. Bisciotti said it was an honest attempt to bring back a player he thought would have a retribution story to share with young players.
“People that redeem themselves are the best ones to lead others,” he said. “I believed that this was Ray’s one terrible moment.”
Bisciotti said he believed that Rice would be a “great asset” counseling with rookies and telling his story of personal redemption.