Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, has not played in an NFL game since the 2013 season. A second-round draft choice out of Rutgers in 2008, Rice had five consecutive 1,000-yard-plus seasons before his production dropped off in 2013. After rushing for 660 yards that season, Rice likely never realized it would be the last time he would ever step onto an NFL field.
If you remember, it was Rice who was charged with assault after he reportedly knocked out his girlfriend Janay Palmer – now Mrs. Janay Palmer-Rice – in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Both Rice and Palmer were highly intoxicated at the time, but any matter involving domestic violence is taken seriously not only by the authorities (the Atlantic City Police and Prosecutor’s Office in this case) but also the National Football League.
Rice was eventually indicted by a grand jury in March of 2014 on charges of aggravated assault in the third-degree. A possible jail sentence loomed as well as fines of up to $15,000. The Atlantic City Prosecutor later decided to drop the charges against Rice. In June, Rice met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and he and the league decided to take action against Rice and suspended him from the first two games of the 2014 season. Goodell and representatives of the league were thought to have seen video footage, see below, of the incident prior to making their final determination. Apparently, they did not.
The ensuing firestorm started on Sept. 8 when TMZ released the full video of the altercation. To say it went viral is an understatement. The same day, Baltimore cut ties with Rice and released him terminating his contract. The NFL also stepped in and decided to suspend Rice indefinitely.
The video, of course, was bad. It showed Rice striking his now wife and, as a result, she goes limp inside the elevator. Goodell reported that he had asked authorities for the security camera video but was repeatedly denied access. That was the reasoning behind the initial two-game suspension. Goodell and the league ended up taking heat and Goodell himself says that he could have handled the situation much better.
After the Rice fiasco, the NFL announced a bold new wide-ranging domestic violence initiative. Any players found to be in violation of the league’s new policy would receive an immediate six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban if nailed for a second. The new policy is in place and it helped to quash any negative publicity facing the league. That is, until now.
Rice’s incident in 2014 will play a large part in determining the success of the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 season. Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, currently the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 690 yards, will serve a six-game suspension for his role in domestic violence-related incident. The problem with Elliott’s case is that there appears to be a lack of evidence to prove Elliott was indeed involved in a such an incident.
Tiffany Thompson, who claims to be an ex-girlfriend of Elliott’s, reported that in 2015 she and Elliott got into several physical altercations. The Columbus Police and the city prosecutor interviewed Thompson and Elliott, in addition to others, to eventually come to a determination that there just wasn’t enough evidence to charge Elliott with any crime. The NFL conducted its own investigation and Kia Roberts, the league’s investigator, did not find anything that warranted discipline from the NFL.
Still, the league and the commissioner decided to suspend Elliott the maximum six games for violating what the league refers to as its personal conduct policy. The NFL believed that Elliott did use physical force against Thompson which substantiated the suspension. Elliott, of course, disputes the findings. He and his attorneys filed an appeal and a subsequent petition to vacate the NFL’s decision. An emergency temporary restraining order was filed on Sept. 1 and was eventually granted allowing Elliott to play while his case made its way through the legal system.
So, here we are at the end of October and Elliott’s request for another temporary injunction has been denied meaning that he will now have to serve his six-game suspension. There is still a chance that Elliott could win an appeal, but it is unlikely. That means his Cowboys will now have to carry on without him. Dallas just won two straight games, ones in which Elliott rushed for over 100 yards and scored two touchdowns. Now, head coach Jason Garrett faces a six-game stretch that includes games against 6-2 Kansas City, defending NFC champ Atlanta, and Philadelphia, owners of the NFL’s best record at 7-1.
Should Dallas fail to make the postseason this year, part of the reason will be the absence of Elliott. It’s an absence that two or three seasons ago likely wouldn’t have occurred. At most, maybe a two-game suspension would have been served, but as a result of the Ray Rice incident Elliott and the Cowboys are forced to pay the price.