INDIANAPOLIS — Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged Saturday that video showing Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee from an elevator at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino is a troubling image for the star running back.
However, Newsome is withholding judgment on Rice as the legal process unfolds and he’s encouraged by the decision of the three-time Pro Bowl running back and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, to get counseling for their relationship.
“I did [watch the video] online, just like everybody else did, and it doesn't look good,” Newsome said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. “But I will reserve all of my comments until I get a chance to talk to Ray. The whole video needs to be reviewed. I don’t know if a different story is going to come out. The video is what it is. Up until the process runs its course, we, as an organization, will stand down.”
“In any of those situations, it’s very concerning, but up until we get all of the facts, we will allow the process run its course. I think [coach] John [Harbaugh] said it best: ‘We will let the facts determine what the consequences will be.’”
Rice and Palmer have been charged with simple assault-domestic violence after a physical altercation at Revel Casino last weekend. The couple still plans to get married, according to Harbaugh.
Although Newsome hasn’t spoken with Rice, he’s been informed of his version of events through Rice's conversations with Harbaugh, director of player development Harry Swayne and director of team security Darren Sanders. Rice has spoken to Swayne, a former Ravens offensive tackle and a fellow Rutgers graduate, every day since the arrest.
“Right now, I feel very good about his side of the story, but I also feel very good about what he has done since that to help himself to not allow himself to get in a situation like that again,” said Newsome, who said his work at the combine and NFL competition committee meetings this week have kept him from speaking with Rice. “I think that’s the best way to say it.”
A Tuesday court hearing was postponed after Atlantic City law enforcement officials referred the case to the county prosecutor for review. A new court date has not yet been set.
Harbaugh said Friday that he didn't foresee a scenario in which Rice wouldn't be on the team next season and said he expects him to participate in the Ravens' offseason conditioning program that starts in April.
The NFL will review Rice's case under the league's personal conduct policy. Punishment, including a suspension, is a possibility under NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, even in the case of a player like Rice, who had a clean record before this incident.
“This is a very serious issue,” former Indianapolis Colts general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said. “This is a player universally regarded as one of the best players in football, the poster child for what's good about the NFL. So you feel sorry for him and his fiancee. No human being is perfect. We need to recognize that, and you hope that they work it out.
“Ray has been a great player for the Ravens and been a great player for the NFL. You hope that they can get through this as a couple and you hope Ray can get focused. This is a distraction, there's no question about that. You hope he can get back to being the guy that he was.”
Newsome was asked whether his opinion on the matter would change Rice were found to have hit Palmer and knocked her out. A police summons said Rice struck his fiancee with his hand and rendered her unconscious, and that both Rice and Palmer “struck each other with their hands.”
“As a league, we have a conduct policy,” Newsome said. “As a member of the league, we will follow that from A to Z. Up until we get to that point, he falls under the personal conduct policy with the league, and we will allow the league to take its position before we have to take any.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens continue to negotiate with free agent offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and tight end Dennis Pitta. No deal is imminent with either player, according to sources.
The Ravens have until March 3 to decide if they want to designate Pitta, or any other player, as their franchise player. Newsome made it clear Saturday that the Ravens will likely continue discussions until the NFL deadline.
“Right now, we're just concentrating on trying to get a deal done,” Newsome said. “We know there's a deadline on we'll have to make a determination if we don't have a deal done at that point."
Newsome said the Ravens have reached out to two or three other current players about potential contract extensions. The Ravens recently approached Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata about adjusting his deal, which includes a team-high $16 million salary-cap figure for 2014. However, the numbers “weren’t realistic” and no compromise was able to be reached, according to a source.
The Ravens want veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith back for next season now that his one-year, $2.125 million contract has expired and have communicated that to him. Smith led the Ravens with 123 tackles and also recorded five sacks, three interceptions and finished second on the defense with 19 pass deflections.
“Daryl did a great job for us,” Newsome said. “I think he probably played more plays than any defensive player that we have. We have engaged in some conversations with his representative."
And the Ravens’ salary-cap outlook continues to improve with the team roughly $20 million under a projected salary-cap limit of $130 million. The Ravens could potentially bid on other teams’ free agents and retain at least a few of their top free agents.
“I think this year we will probably use every avenue to make our team better,” Newsome said. “If there's a free agent that we feel like can come in and impact our football team, that's someone we would be attracted to. We will use every avenue this year to make our team better."