Former Ravens running back Ray Rice wins appeal, is eligible for NFL

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2014 3:56 PM

(Reuters) - Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has won an appeal of his indefinite suspension and is now eligible to sign with any National Football League team, the league said on Friday.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice, 27, in July for two games for punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious during an altercation at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino in February.

But after elevator security video surfaced in September of Rice's one-punch knockout, the Baltimore Ravens released the three-time Pro Bowler, and his $35 million contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who heard Rice's appeal this month, concluded in her decision that Rice did not lie or mislead Goodell, ESPN said.

The NFL said in a statement that it respects the judge's decision.

"Ray Rice is a free agent and has been eligible to be signed by an NFL team since he was released by the Ravens," it said. "Based on Judge Jones' decision, he will be eligible to play upon signing a new contract."

In court, Rice had pleaded not guilty in May to one count of third-degree aggravated assault and was entered into a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders.

Goodell's handling of the Rice case raised questions about the effectiveness of the NFL's response to domestic violence and prompted an independent investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The NFL had been widely seen as being soft on domestic violence and sexual assault, leading to a public backlash and one of the biggest crises in the most popular U.S. sport.

Although Rice has been allowed to return to the league, it remained unclear if anyone would sign the 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), 195-pound (88-kg) running back.

He gained at least 1,100 yards on the ground each year from 2009 to 2012, but he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry in 2013 and rushed for only 660 yards.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Chicago; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)