Even though three players recently have been arrested for assault in domestic disputes, Rice is the face of this issue in the NFL. The video image of him dragging his unconscious then-fiancée out of an Atlantic City elevator has put Rice at the center of what is a sensitive and extremely personal topic.
This is his chance to take full responsibility for the incident and not simply his "role," which is how he characterized it in a mishandled news conference two months ago. This is an opportunity to apologize not only to his now-wife, Janay, but all women who have been affected by domestic abuse. Rice has talked about the importance of being a strong role model, and he has to prove it Thursday, when he is expected to take questions for the first time since being arrested for assault in February.
No one needs to hear Rice say that he's failed. He did that at his May news conference, and he reiterated that in a statement released by the team after his two-game suspension by the NFL was announced this past Thursday.
Rice also doesn't need to say he's sorry to the fans or children again, especially after the warm reception he received at a training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night. There were women and children there wearing his No. 27 jersey.
The national perception, however, is that Rice has not been punished justly. Not by the court system, which allowed him to enter a pretrial intervention program. Not by the NFL, which suspended Rice for only two games when repeat drug offenders can be banned for an entire season.
The issue of domestic violence isn't isolated to Rice and the Ravens, which is why someone needs to send a stronger message. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington and Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson all recently have been arrested for assault in domestic disputes. According to statistics from The San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 of 32 NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year.
Rice is just the latest statistic, although no one has been supported more strongly by his team. The Ravens contend this incident is unlike the Rice they've known for the past six years. Rice has been publicly backed by owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and thousands of fans at that stadium practice.
But this issue goes beyond the team, the city and, quite frankly, football in general. That’s why Thursday’s news conference is such an important step for Rice.