Ravens running back Ray Rice's release Monday, and the video that precipitated it, left teammates who steadfastly supported him since his February domestic assault arrest trying to separate the act that halted Rice's NFL career from the man who committed it.
"It was probably a little more than what we expected," said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was one of Rice's closest friends on the team. "At the end of the day, he's still family and this is probably the roughest time in his life. You still got to be there to support him."
Rice was released by the team Monday afternoon, just hours after TMZ posted a video showing Rice knocking his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, unconscious during a dispute in an elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Charged with felony aggravated assault, Rice avoided a trial by agreeing to a pretrial intervention program. Shortly after his release Monday, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. His two-game suspension was set to end after Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Smith was one of several Ravens who reflected on Rice's release and how it affects the team and his former teammates.
Running back Justin Forsett, who carried the ball 11 times for 70 yards in Sunday's 23-17 loss to Cincinnati because of Rice's suspension and Bernard Pierce's ineffectiveness, said it was "tough seeing and watching that video."
"I know for a fact that being with him since the incident and working with him, knowing him for a lot of years, he's definitely growing and maturing," Forsett said. "I'm not going to abandon him now. I'm going to be a friend and help him in his growth and development. But I'm definitely ashamed watching that."
Some Ravens veterans, like outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, described the day as an opportunity to reflect. Punter Sam Koch said the same while allowing that the video was "hard for all of us to see."
"I think everybody can learn a lot from other people's mistakes and your own mistakes," Koch said.
Others were strong in their condemnations.
Reserve safety Brynden Trawick called the video "bad business." Defensive end Chris Canty called Rice a friend, but said he has been affected by domestic violence in his life and said the video was "deplorable."
"He made a terrible error in judgment," Canty said. "I think it's easy in the situation to point a finger of blame rather than extend a hand of help. Clearly, this is going to be something that they're going to need help, and they're seeking help."
Canty said he understood the team's move.
"I think the organization did what they deemed in the best interest of this football team," Canty said. "That's always how business is done in the NFL. So, I think they want to focus on us moving forward on Thursday night and the rest of the season."
While many outside the Ravens' organization have been strong in condemning Rice, Monday's video prompted the first such public reactions from his teammates, who were supportive until then.
Smith, an offensive leader entering his fourth year with the team, rallied a group of around 30 players who stood in support of Rice when he addressed the media on July 31 and took questions for the first time since the assault.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who played three seasons with Rice, was one of those players who supported Rice that day.
"It's been a tough day," Taylor said. "I don't know if letdown is the word. I can't really put a term on it right now. It's kind of an awkward feeling."
Both Forsett and Smith said they reached out to Rice, as did former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Lewis, who mentored Rice during his first years in Baltimore, said on ESPN's Monday Night Countdown that the issue was personal given his mother's struggles with domestic violence.
"For me, it stings," Lewis said. "It stings because he's a friend and I always tried to take this young man and give him something different, teach him something different, educate him as he was going along this process."
Baltimore Ravens Insider
Reporters Jeff Zrebiec and Aaron Wilson contributed to this story