Ravens, NFL and Ray Rice All Taking Turns Tossing Each Other Under the Bus

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2014

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All the world's buses are in Baltimore, and there are bodies being tossed under them with great enthusiasm.

In a remarkable, passionate and stunning press conference Monday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti heaved Ray Rice—a man the team had previously defended—under one of the buses. This was in response, Bisciotti said, to Rice and his associates being the main source of that damning ESPN story.

Bisciotti threw the NFL under another bus, saying about the TMZ video release (warning: graphic images): "Why didn't we get that video? And how could the league not have seen that video?"

So let's keep track of the buses. Rice tosses the team that defended him under one. The Ravens toss Rice, the league and the media. We're running out of buses.

There's a saying: "Victory has many fathers, and defeat is an orphan." No one wants to be the orphan on this one.

Bisciotti deserves credit for meeting with the media and being frank and taking the heat. I feel that he now really cares. But there was also an element of almost unprecedented excuse making. There's passing the buck, and then there's what the Ravens did. They passed the U.S. Treasury.

OWINGS MILLS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22:  Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti addresses the media during a news conference at the team's practice facility concerning the recent controversy surrounding former player Ray Rice on September 22, 2014 in Owings Mill
Rob Carr/Getty Images

In effect, what Bisciotti did, was say everyone was lying about the Rice situation. Everyone, of course, except them. 

"Our integrity and character were being called into question," he said. "My feeling when I read (the Outside the Lines report) was a couple of things. I think it says it took them 11 days to write it, but they only gave us two hours to respond.

"I think it's obvious that the majority of sources are people that work for Ray. Almost everything in there is anonymous, but it's clear from the subject matter that it's Ray's attorney, it's Ray's agent and Ray's friends. They are building a case for reinstatement, and the best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everybody else look like they're lying. Their accusations didn't jive with what we knew as fact."

When you're wrong, you attack the writers. It's PR 101. Deflect, distract, deny.

I believe the ESPN writers. They are among the most talented at what they do, and those of us who have done this type of reporting know them well. They are trustworthy, honest and damn good.

They got this story right.

What the Ravens are saying now is: We believed Ray Rice then, but you shouldn't believe him now.

Again, this is the next phase of the story. Every man for themselves. Line up the buses.

In some ways, this is about everyone attempting to make themselves look better in the report that will come from former FBI director Robert Mueller. I'm the only one who believes that despite his odious connections to the league, he won't compromise himself and will point fingers. My guess is those fingers will point toward not just Goodell but the Ravens. So everyone is lining up their stories.

The Ravens are trying to make themselves look better by blaming the media. Rice is allegedly trying to make himself look better by having friends talk to ESPN on his behalf. The NFL, privately, has blamed the Ravens and the Ravens, publicly, blame the NFL.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

In many ways, this is the life cycle of an NFL player, and perhaps one of the more pertinent lessons to take from this. The Ravens stuck with Rice because he was still a valuable commodity to them. No, he wasn't the same player physically, but he was still good. They also saw him as a popular man off the field, and that overall value—in addition to not appreciating or understanding the sinister pathology of domestic violence—made Rice worth fighting for, despite his crime.

They loved Ray when it was convenient for them, and now that it's not, now that's he's radioactive, they toss him under that large passenger vehicle.

There's no better proof of this than the text messages between Rice and the Ravens owner, which the team released prior to its news conference. The messages deal with the aftermath of Rice's release.

Rice: "I understand the decision but I am thankful for what you have done for me and my family. Me and my wife will continue to work on us and being better but I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a chance."

Bisciotti: "I'm sorry we had to do this. I still love you and believe that you will be a great husband and father If you ever need to talk just call."

Then, on Tuesday, September 9, more messages between the two.

Bisciotti to Rice: "I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you. We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives. When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!"

Gail Burton/Associated Press

Rice: "I know it's a rough time for all of us I love all of you and that will never change for life!"

Bisciotti: "I will help you make it a great life indeed. I give you my WORD."

Rice: "That means the world to me and my family we greatly appreciate you and thank you."

Bisciotti sent these texts even after he saw the second video. Think about that. Think about how many employers in this country would fire a woman-beater and then use them as a sort of woman-beater emeritus who would then lecture employees that they shouldn't beat women.

I get what Bisciotti was saying. He felt Rice could be the Raven equivalent of Cris Carter, who beat drugs to become a Hall of Famer. Or Donte Stallworth, who drove drunk and killed a person. So I get it. But sending those messages in such close proximity to that ugly of a situation just reeks with a lack of overall awareness.

Now, just a short time later, the Ravens owner could not distance himself enough from Rice and has basically accused him of using associates and friends to put together a false cover story for ESPN.

From love to "my word" to persona non grata is apparently a short trip.

Now, it's every man for themselves. Man the buses.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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