NFL Looking Into Report That League Exec Saw Ray Rice Video in April

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Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens looks over his notes while addressing a news conference with his wife Janay at the Ravens training center on May 23, 2014, in Owings Mills, Maryland. Rice spoke publicly for the first time since facing felony assault charges stemming from a February incident involving Janay at an Atlantic City casino. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The NFL on Wednesday said it is looking into an Associated Press report that a league executive in April received from a law enforcement official a copy of the video in which Ray Rice punched his now-wife in the face.

The law enforcement official had a short voice mail from April 9 in which someone calling from a number at an NFL office thanks the official, the AP reported. The caller says of the video, “You’re right. It’s terrible,” according to the AP.

The league has denied that anyone in its office had seen the video before Monday, when it was posted online. When asked about the AP report, an NFL spokesman said the league will investigate the validity of the story.

“We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it,” Brian McCarthy said.

The AP story said the law enforcement official requested anonymity because of an ongoing investigation and didn’t name the NFL executive because that would make it easy to identify the AP’s source.

The source told AP he sent the video on a DVD to an NFL office.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS in an interview aired Wednesday that the league asked for the video on several occasions, but was denied access.

“I understand that there may be legal restrictions on them sharing that with us,” he said.

In a memo to NFL owners, the commissioner reiterated that position, saying the NFL asked for the videos in February and in May. New Jersey law prohibits their release while a police investigation is under way, Goodell wrote in the memo.

The league didn’t ask a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the video, Goodell said.

On February 15, Rice, released Monday by the Baltimore Ravens, and his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, got into an altercation on an elevator in the casino in Atlantic City. Rice floored Palmer with a punch to the head then dragged her — face down — out of the elevator. The incident was captured on casino surveillance cameras.

TMZ Sports obtained two videos from the footage taken that night. It posted the first one, which showed Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of the elevator, in February. The in-elevator video showing the violent punch was put online on Monday.

Rice was suspended indefinitely by the league and is in a pretrial intervention program in the New Jersey legal system that will allow him to avoid jail time.

Initially he had been suspended for two games of the 16-game season, a decision by Goodell that was widely criticized.

Goodell told CBS that he was sickened by what he saw on the newly released video and that it was the first time he had seen the full scope of the February incident.

He also deflected criticism of his handling of Rice’s case and his initial lenient penalty for the domestic violence incident.

“What we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us in and of itself,” Goodell said, referring to another video that surfaced in February after the incident, showing Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of the elevator. “But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear. It was extremely graphic and it was sickening.”

Goodell’s handling — or mishandling, as his critics say — of the Rice domestic violence incident has led to calls for his firing, too.

“The NFL has lost its way. It doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem, it has a violence against women problem,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.

“The NFL sets the example for college, high school, middle school and even elementary school football programs. And the example it is setting right now is simply unacceptable. New leadership must come in with a specific charge to transform the culture of violence against women that pervades the NFL.”