- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Ravens reporter
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Each time Ray Rice's situation gets more serious, what hasn't changed is the Baltimore Ravens' stance with their starting running back. They're not just supporting Rice. They're aggressively doing so.
An hour after a grand jury indicted Rice on third-degree aggravated assault for allegedly striking his fiancée unconscious, the Ravens released a statement that read: "We know there is more to Ray Rice than this one incident.”
The Ravens didn't have to say anything. They could've left it as this is part of the due process. But, as with every step in this embarrassing matter -- from his initial arrest to the TMZ video of him dragging his fiancée out of the elevator -- the Ravens have made it clear that they're standing by Rice.
A cynic would say the Ravens are sticking with Rice because they would lose $5.5 million in cap space by cutting Rice. I believe the Ravens are keeping Rice based on how he conducted himself in the community since joining the Ravens in 2008.
Are the Ravens wrong in doing so? Coach John Harbaugh best explained the team's reasoning on Tuesday: "The thing that’s really important is to be able to support the person without condoning the action."
The Ravens have never said Rice is innocent. They're backing the one-time model citizen who made a mistake, albeit a very serious and public one.
"If everybody was one-strike-and-you're-out, then we'd all be in trouble," owner Steve Bisciotti told ESPN at the NFL owners meetings on Monday.
Bisciotti indicated this week that Rice has a future with the team, and Harbaugh reiterated that the three-time Pro Bowl running back will be part of the team this season. No gray area here. Of course, this is predicated on whether he will be allowed to play.
This is no longer a simple assault. This is now a felony that carries a potential penalty of three to five years in prison, although someone with no prior record could receive probation, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Even if Rice isn't convicted, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can fine and suspend him under the league's personal conduct policy. Goodell said Wednesday that the league is monitoring Rice's situation.
Rice's next court hearing hasn't been scheduled. But, whatever happens next, you can expect the Ravens to be standing beside Rice.
Each time Ray Rice's situation gets more serious, what hasn't changed is the Baltimore Ravens' stance with their starting running back. They're not just supporting Rice.