Former Ravens star Ray Rice sounded contrite in his first comments since being reinstated from an indefinite suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy.
During a taped interview with his wife and her parents at his Reisterstown home that aired Tuesday morning on NBC's "Today," Rice was asked what he would say to an NFL owner or group of fans to persuade them he deserves another opportunity to play.
"One thing, I would think they would have to be willing to look deeper into who I am and realize me and my wife had one bad night, and I took full responsibility for," Rice said. "One thing about my punishment is I accepted it. I went fully forward with it. I never complained. I never did anything like that. I took full responsibility for everything that I did. The only thing I can hope for and wish for is a second chance."
NFL teams have shown little interest in Rice and he realizes he's more likely to be signed by a team during the offseason, according to sources.
John Maroon, owner and president of Columbia-based Maroon PR, told The Baltimore Sun teams have to ask whether Rice is worth the potential distraction.
"What will be interesting is to see what's the next step," Maroon said. "If you sign him, instantly half the fan base will be upset. As a team, you need to come out and say, 'We understand this is a controversial signing.' You need to have Ray and Janay already associated with the House of Ruth affiliate in that city and work very closely with the organization to fight domestic violence. What you need to figure out: 'Is it worth it to our organization to have this distraction in our locker room?'"
Rice was arrested in February after punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. He was charged with felony aggravated assault but avoided jail time through a pretrial intervention program.
He was originally suspended for two games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who later increased the suspension to an indefinite one when a graphic video surfaced in September on TMZ's website. Rice's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, argued in an appeal that Rice was being punished twice for the same violation, and former federal judge Barbara S. Jones, an independent arbitrator, invalidated the suspension.
Rice hired a crisis management specialist to advise him as he tries to repair the damage he's done to his image, a key step for him as he tries to show NFL teams that he's worthy of a second chance.
Maroon said he thought he thought the Rices' interviews were successful.
"Look, the bottom line is that's why he and Janay went through this process, is trying to restart his football career," Maroon said. "I thought they did an excellent job overall. Whoever prepared them did a great job. Having Janay's parents there was powerful. Janay carries herself very well. Obviously, she's a strong and smart woman and that came across. That's a real asset for his career."
Having the family together in the kitchen for the interview projected a positive image, Maroon said.
"Togetherness, a unified front, that's what it shows," Maroon said. "I think Janay's father did a world of good for Ray. He's clearly a dad that doesn't take any bull and was a tough guy and also reasonable. The interview with the father was helpful in everything they're trying to do."
The interview with Matt Lauer touched on several topics, including the news conference held in May at the Ravens' training complex where Rice apologized to several people in the Ravens organization, but not to his wife. Ray and Janay said the Ravens suggested what the couple should say.
"The reason why that press conference was the way it was is because we were still under legal situations," Rice said. "So, there wasn't much that could be said. I'll be honest. We were nervous. I was nervous. It was the first time that we were available to speak and I made a horrendous mistake not apologizing to my wife.
"When we were going in we were given what to speak about. It wasn't truly coming from us, if you can understand."
Janay Rice's apology during that news conference raised eyebrows, as well. Ray Rice said she was attempting to help him.
Ravens officials haven't commented on Ray and Janay Rice's remarks. Ray Rice has a pending grievance against the Ravens that claims wrongful termination of his $35 million contract. He's attempting to recoup $3.5 million in lost salary from the 2014 season.
Being critical of the Ravens for how the press conference was conducted was a misstep, Maroon said.
"Of all the things I didn't like is the fact that both went out of their way to essentially throw the Ravens under the bus for scripting the press conference," said Maroon, whose clients include retired Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. "You're a grownup. If you didn't like the suggestions, you speak up. ... That's the one part that jumped out to me that I didn't like."
Rice was emotional when he talked about the couples' young daughter, Rayven, and what she'll have to go through.
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"I still have to live every day and take my daughter to school," Rice said. "She's going to grow up, and the way the Internet works now she's going to Google her father's name and the first thing that's going to come up is, we know what's going to come up. That's the reality of it. That's what I'm more worried about fixing.
"I want my wife, my daughter we all just want our lives back. I realize football is one thing. Now, I realize the amount of people we've affected, the amount of families we've affected."
Sticking with a message that his wife delivered, Ray Rice insisted that he and his wife aren't involved in a pattern of abuse and that this was an aberration in their relationship.
"Domestic violence is a real issue in society," Rice said. "We can take our one bad night that happened to be on video, but we are truly sorry for the people who's truly going through it. It's a real problem. I know when the time is right. I know my wife wants to help. I know I want to help."
"One thing you learn is we weren't in a perfect relationship," he said. "No relationship is perfect. We've had arguments but when you talk about abuse, that's something that we know we'd never cross that path. But then did we say things to each other that we want to take back at times? Yeah, we've crossed that line before, but it never got to an altercation where it went that far."
Ray and Janay have been in counseling since the incident last winter, and he was asked what that experience has done for him as a person.
"Counseling, I'll be honest, what my counselor basically did is rip me apart and build me back together," Rice said. "I couldn't resist it. That was the thing. I was able to let somebody else in and literally tear me down. There was so much you didn't know about yourself. You grow up and you think you know it all."