Ray Rice

Ravens running back Ray Rice runs with the ball during practice at Under Armour Performance Center. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports / July 24, 2014)

The Ravens apparently will be without top running back Ray Rice for their season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and their Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, but the reported two-game suspension Rice received from the NFL for his domestic assault incident is really a best-case scenario for him and the team.

There may be some criticism about the length of it from groups battling domestic abuse, but whether you believe the suspension is too short or just right is really a matter of perception.

Just guessing, but if a baseball player was suspended for 20 games for the same offense, it probably would appear to the general public to be a harsher penalty even though that would actually be a slightly lower percentage of the season (and the player's salary) than a two-game suspension in the NFL.

The important thing, however, is not the exact length of the suspension but the outcome for Rice and his family.

By all accounts, he has done everything right since that ugly night at an Atlantic City casino. He and his wife have entered a therapy program and both of them met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to explain themselves and commit to doing whatever is necessary to make sure there is never another incident like it.

That's why it seems likely that Rice will not appeal the suspension. He and the team want to get this situation behind them as quickly as possible, so dragging it out further with an appeal hearing would probably accomplish nothing and call into question Rice's sincere contrition.

From a football perspective, it is a significant loss, even though the Ravens likely will downplay the impact of losing their star running back for two very important division games. Head coach John Harbaugh has already explained that a suspension would not have a significant effect on training camp until after the second preseason game, and he has expressed confidence in the team's running back depth.

It's unclear just how important Rice's absense might turn out to be since the Ravens are installing a new offense this season. It's also unclear just which Ray Rice the Ravens can expect to take the field in 2014 after the difficult season he endured last year.

The buzz around training camp is that Rice is in excellent condition after coming into camp in questionable shape in 2013. He's got a lot to prove this year both on and off the field, and the ruling from the league office -- though it took awhile to arrive -- allows him and the team to move forward with some certainty.

The NFL certainly took its time delivering its decision on Rice, but the league has had quite a lot on its disciplinary plate over the past few months and -- presumably -- wanted to review this particular situation very carefully.

It might not satisfy everybody, but if Rice continues to put his personal and professional life in order, the right message will be sent regardless of the actual length of the suspension.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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