AFC North: On the Radar 60310

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.

On the radar: Mike Wallace

June, 3, 2010
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A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

Last offseason, a surprise rookie from Ole Miss flashed tremendous speed and reliable hands during Pittsburgh Steelers' practice.

[+] EnlargeMike Wallace
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesMike Wallace had 39 catches for 756 yards and six touchdowns during his rookie season.
Several months later, third-round pick Mike Wallace introduced himself to the rest of the NFL with a standout season, recording 39 receptions for 756 yards and six touchdowns.

This year, Wallace has been arguably the best receiver for the Steelers during practices with Hines Ward coaching from the sidelines. Wallace routinely makes plays now that he's getting more opportunities with the first-team offense. With Santonio Holmes traded to the New York Jets, it will be important for Pittsburgh's second-year standout to make the jump from a backup receiver to a starter.

Wallace owes a lot of his quick development to Ward, who remains in his ear during practices. Like Plaxico Burress and Holmes in the past, Ward knows how important it is to have two productive receivers in Pittsburgh’s offense.

"Anything I do, he's watching," Wallace said of Ward this week. "So it's kind of hard to be perfect with Hines out here."

Wallace continues to work on his routes; route-running was the knock on him coming out of college. Pittsburgh utilized Wallace's strengths last year by making him a deep threat as the third receiver. But this season Wallace must be more polished running short and intermediate routes as a starter.

Timing also is something to watch in training camp. Wallace and the receivers are working with Ben Roethlisberger, who has a conditional six-game suspension, as well as Byron Leftwich on the first team this spring. Dennis Dixon also is expected to get a chance to work with the starters at some point, as the team figures out how to divide snaps.

"They're all good quarterbacks, so it doesn't really matter to me," Wallace said. "Anyone of them lines up, I'll be ready to go."

Wallace is confident that he's ready to step into the starting role. Based on last season and his steady growth this offseason, there's no reason for the Steelers to think otherwise.