The Baltimore Ravens have been in this same situation before. Each time, they stood by their player, whether it was Ray Lewis facing double-murder charges in 2000 or Jamal Lewis going to jail on federal drug charges.
Despite the Ravens' history, I honestly didn't know if they would be as supportive with running back Ray Rice. Why? Brian Billick was the head coach during the ordeals with Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis. This time, it is John Harbaugh, the same coach who worked so hard to change the Ravens' bad-boy image. And right now, even though Rice has not been convicted of any crime, he's seen as the bad boy in the NFL by many.
In his first comments since Rice's arrest for simple assault, Harbaugh was as supportive as any head coach could be considering the circumstances. The toughest question, of course, is whether there is a scenario where he could see Rice not being part of the Ravens in 2014.
"Not that I'm aware of," Harbaugh told reporters at the NFL combine. "I haven't seen anything that would remotely make me think that."
Yes, Harbaugh wisely didn't paint himself in a corner with Rice. But remember, he didn't have to talk about his star running back getting arrested. He had no obligation to speak to reporters at the NFL combine because general manager Ozzie Newsome is scheduled to do so Saturday morning. Instead, Harbaugh said he hasn't seen anything that would "remotely" make him think of cutting ties with Rice, a statement that won't sit well with people who wanted Rice released after what transpired this week.
First, there was the TMZ video posted Wednesday morning that shows Rice lifting the woman, who looks limp, by her arms out of an elevator at the Revel Casino. His attorney said that the footage is authentic but incomplete.
Then, there was the police summons released Wednesday afternoon that stated Rice struck his fiancee with his hand, rendering her unconscious. On Thursday night, there was a report from SI.com saying police have a yet-to-be-released video of Rice knocking out his fiancee.
Harbaugh spoke to Rice on Monday to get his explanation of the incident. Again, he could've given a "no comment" or "we're keeping it between us" when asked about their conversation. He not only touched on Rice, but his relationship with his fiancee, Janay Palmer.
"Ray and I are real close," Harbaugh said. "We have been for a long time, so it's an easy conversation to have. I love Janay. She's a great person."
Harbaugh added, "The two people obviously have a couple issues that they have to work through, and they're both committed to doing that. That was the main takeaway for me from the conversation. They understand their own issues. They're getting a lot of counseling and those kinds of things, so I think that's really positive. That was the main takeaway."
Sure, the situation can change if this case is tried in actual court, not the court of public opinion. I also understand the Ravens would prefer not to cut Rice because they would have to take a $5.5 million salary-cap hit to do so. But, based on Harbaugh's comments, there is going to be no knee-jerk reaction. The Ravens are going to patient, just like they've been in the past.