Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s appeal of his indefinite suspension over his arrest on domestic violence charges could be resolved in the next month, which means Rice could in theory be reinstated to the NFL and eligible to sign with a new team by mid-November, CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reported Sunday.
After originally suspending Rice for just two games, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely in September when TMZ published security footage from an Atlantic City casino that showed Rice punching his wife, Janay Rice. Rice appealed the suspension.
According to La Canfora’s report, the appeal hearing is set to take place in early November and U.S. District Court Judge Barbara S. Jones, who is serving as an independent arbitrator in the case, could rule soon afterward.
La Canfora also reported that legal experts told him that Rice has “an exceedingly strong case” for overturning the appeal. Others have said that the longer suspension, in concert with Rice’s release, may have violated certain sections of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, and that Goodell may not have the authority to punish Rice twice for the same incident. Under the league’s domestic violence policy, which it issued after Rice’s original suspension, a first-time offender is subject to a six-game suspension, though the policy gives the league room to consider “mitigating factors.”
Despite reports that it had access to the video (and the fact that league officials shouldn’t have needed to see it to understand what happened), Goodell argued that the video of Rice punching his wife constituted new evidence that gave the league a reason to revisit and increase Rice’s punishment.
The NFL and NFLPA are currently disputing over whether Goodell should have to testify as part of the Rice appeal, with the NFL trying to keep the commissioner from having to do so. Jones will rule this week on whether Goodell must testify, according to the Associated Press.
Even if he is reinstated, it seems unlikely that any team would sign Rice this season, given the increased focus on domestic violence around the league and how the NFL has handled players accused or convicted of it. The NFL is conducting an investigation into how it handled the Rice case, including whether it had access to the TMZ video. It has also instituted a “new” domestic violence policy and is working with the union, former players, and others to reshape its personal conduct policy in the wake of the Rice case and others involving players. Early in October, former Chicago Bears executive Jerry Angelo told USA Today that the league failed to discipline “hundreds and hundreds” of players accused of domestic violence during his three decades working in the NFL.