Ray Rice tells all about night that changed his life forever

Ray Rice has always trusted his eyes. He’s a running back, a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and on the field his powerful legs go where his eyes guide him.

Now, however, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

It was Sept. 8, 2014 when he was convinced his eyes had failed him.

He was horrified and sickened at the sight of himself. It caused him to contemplate whether life was worth living.

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“One or two bad decisions and your dream can become a nightmare,” Rice told the Daily News in an exclusive interview. “I’m in a unique position. I lived the dream and I lived the nightmare. The No. 1 rule is you never put your hand on a woman. That’s the No. 1 standard for a man. Domestic violence is totally wrong.”

Before Josh Brown and Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy and too many others, there was Ray Rice.

Rice, who has become a powerful public speaker on the dangers of domestic violence and bad decision-making, was serving a two-game suspension after he was arrested for hitting his soon-to-be-wife Janay Palmer, his New Rochelle High School sweetheart, the mother of his daughter, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2014.

It was now a Monday morning in September. He had missed the Ravens season opener the previous day, a seven-point loss to the Bengals. They would play again without him in the Thursday night game against the Steelers and then Rice would be eligible to report back to the team and resume his career.

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CORRECTS TO FIVE MONTHS AGO, INSTEAD OF THREE AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED SOLELY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OF EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. THIS IMAGE MY ONLY BE USED FOR 14 DAYS FROM TIME OF TRANSMIS

A still image taken from the 2014 hotel security video released by TMZ Sports that shows Ray Rice dragging his wife, Janay Palmer, out of an elevator at the Revel casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

(Uncredited/AP)

Then it happened.

Rice didn’t just think his football career was over. He worried about making it to the next day.

TMZ released the now infamous second elevator video. Ray and Janay had been drinking heavily that evening with friends. The first video, released by TMZ days after the incident, showed Rice dragging Janay’s limp body out of the elevator with a cruel indifference.

The second video went back another crucial minute or two and showed Janay slapping Ray in the face as they walked to the elevator, slapping him again in the elevator. He then punched her in the head. Her head banged against the elevator railing and she collapsed to the floor unconscious.

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Rice told the Daily News he has only seen the video once: The morning of Sept. 8 two years ago.

“I will never watch it again,” Rice said. “I know deep down inside that is not who I am. I look at that person – I’ve only seen him once. I will never see that guy again. I look at it, and when you think about that night, what got me there, what got me to the worst moment of my life, there’s a lot of things we can talk on and on about. I got the help that I needed.”

He watched the video by himself and it crushed him.

Front page of the New York Daily News for September 9, 2014 with picture of Roger Goodell and Ray Rice with headline DISGRACE

Front page of the New York Daily News for September 9, 2014 with picture of Roger Goodell and Ray Rice with headline DISGRACE

(New York Daily News)

“At that moment, I was in a dark place. My life flashed before me. I’m not afraid to say that,” he said. “I thought it was over. I didn’t know what to do. At that moment, I panicked on life. I just didn’t know if it was worth it. I’m thankful for the help I received. I’m thankful for the genuine people, everyone that helped me get out of that dark, dark, dark cloud. Every day is different, but I’m very thankful to be where I am right now. I’m able to go out there and hold my head up high. I’m not proud of what happened, but I am proud of what I did to never, never, never, ever get to that place again.”

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Did he ever consider something drastic – suicide – when he was in that dark place?

“I have a family now. I could never give up on my family,” he said. “It’s safe to say that you can see why people who do cross that bridge – you understand how you can get to that point. I’ve never felt anything that low before, I’ve never felt like it wasn’t worth living. I realized that it’s over. The video came out, the Ravens released me and then all of a sudden, it was like, where do you go from here? I know I’m still (going to) live in this cloud for a very long time, but it doesn’t feel the same anymore. It was not an easy process.”

Hardy, who never expressed regret, got another chance last season with the Cowboys after physically abusing his girlfriend when he played for the Panthers. He is out of the league now. The Vikings welcomed Peterson back after he disciplined his 4-year old son by hitting him with a tree branch. Peterson expressed remorse and said he was punishing his son the same way he had been punished as a child.

Rice, who now lives with his family in Stamford, Conn., last played in an NFL game on Aug. 16, 2014, the Ravens’ second preseason game. He was released by Baltimore and suspended indefinitely by Roger Goodell within hours of the second elevator video going viral – the suspension was later overturned – and even though Rice continues to work out diligently in the hopes of returning to the NFL, the odds are hopelessly against him.

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He has taken responsibility for his actions and now tours the country speaking to college players about their decision-making to help them avoid the horrible mistake he made in that Atlantic City elevator. The Ravens had him back this year to speak to their rookies. He is helping coach his old New Rochelle High School team.

“When I went to the Ravens, that was really a great deal,” he said. “It was like the beginning of a healing process. I didn’t see nothing but love. I gave the rookies everything I had. I wanted them to understand about everything I went through. I was very thankful for the opportunity.”

Even so, as he has rebuilt his life and his family life — Janay married him the day after he was indicted six weeks after the assault and their little girl is now 4 and their son will be two months old on Nov. 9 — he has not had as much as a tryout with an NFL team. He entered a pretrial diversionary program and charges against him were dropped in 2015.

He was toxic to the NFL and apparently still is. “I was the face of the NFL for all the good reasons, for all the right reasons,” Rice said. “Then I became the face of the NFL for all the wrong reasons.”

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He won’t give up on the NFL. He also knows he lost control of his football fate when that second video came out. He was also a running back, a replaceable part these days, coming off his worst season, so it’s easy for teams to not pick up the phone.

“It’s not whether I can play football or not. I can play football,” Rice said. “I think a lot of people in this world know I can play football. I’m dealing with a situation where it’s going to have to come down to some forgiveness and somebody willing to say this guy deserves a second chance. I know it’s a very hard thing to do in today’s society. I’m not angry or upset. I’m just being realistic now.

“I cherish the good moments about the game. I cherish everything I’ve accomplished. I can go out there and teach others. With that being said, if I was on the field right now, what I can do in the locker room, I would help make a difference. What can I do for the community, because I was already a community guy, I can help make a difference. I know that I can. I think with the second chance, no one would be disappointed. It wouldn’t be for the money, that’s just the truth. It would be to finish a story the right way and help as many people as I can.”

Rice undergoes counseling to give him the support and advice he needs. He still very much wants to play, but knows now there is more to life than football. He can change lives with his messages about domestic violence.

“I will have a greater impact now than any touchdown I’ve ever scored my entire life. I think touchdowns for me were a temporary fix. Domestic violence is a horrible deal,” he said. “I understand how bad it is because I took the time to understand what it is and how frequent it happens and how many families it affects and how many kids it affects. I’m trying to help save as many people as I can. I’m sure there are many lives out there that can be saved. I just want to be a positive voice and positive force going forward to help shed light on it.”

Roger Goodell suspended Ray Rice indefinitely within hours of the second elevator video going viral.

Roger Goodell suspended Ray Rice indefinitely within hours of the second elevator video going viral.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

TURNING POINTS

Josh Brown said in August of his arrest in May of 2015 for domestic violence against his wife Molly that it was “just a single moment, an act.” Documents released nearly two weeks ago show that not to be true. In one of the documents Brown damaged his credibility by calling himself a liar for most of his life.

Initially, Goodell suspended Brown just one game and the Giants brought him back after he served it. Following the release of the new documents by authorities, Brown was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and the Giants cut him last week.

“Every case is different,” Rice said. “I’ve honestly been focused in on mine. But obviously when things hit the fan, you get to read and see and piece out everything that is going on. I know there is a lot more going on than what was out there, just being in my own situation. But one thing I see now is I think Josh Brown wants to get help. Regardless if he ever plays football again or not, I think he will get the help he needs. It’s not an overnight process. The process has to keep going. It’s a learning thing. You have to develop healthy cultures, keep a healthy and loving environment around you. Whatever happened with the Giants, it was good to see that even though he won’t be kicking, they are still extending that support.”

How did Rice get to that moment in his life when he hit the woman he loves? There is no indication or evidence he ever hit her before or after. So what happened that night?

“When we say, yeah, it was one incident, it was one physical incident,” Rice said. “But I’m being realistic. Me and my wife had arguments. One thing I do know now is how to respect my wife and talk to her. If we disagree, we are not disagreeing to go at each other, we are disagreeing to find out what is going to be a mutual agreement for the betterment of our family.”

Rice tells students he was trying to be The Man instead of being a man. That contributed to his problems. But he had other issues.

His father was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting when Rice was just 1. As the oldest of four, he had to become a man too soon. He was always close to his mother Janet, but prior to the elevator fight, Janay and his mother were not getting along.

FILE

Janay Rice married him Ray Rice the day after he was indicted.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

That put Rice in the middle and it was stressful. He also had an awful season with the Ravens in 2013. He played through a difficult injury and averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry after averaging 4.4 yards in 2012, the Super Bowl year, when he had his fourth 1,000-yard season.

“The two No. 1 women in my life were not seeing eye-to-eye,” he said. “I was hurt. I had a muscle tear. I wasn’t performing up to what football was supposed to be for me. I was very stressed out. I was a very angry person. I had what you call a bad season of life. You’re talking about someone who had money in the bank. I didn’t worry about the lights going out. I didn’t handle problems right. I realized that the problem was me.”

He is devoted to his family. He knows one day his daughter and son will be asking questions.

He said he wants to raise his son to be a man, not The Man. He has to protect his daughter from men acting like he did in the worst moment of his life.

Rice went back to Rutgers, where he played college ball, to speak to the team before the season. He went to Florida State. He spoke at the Big 12 Forum. Even if an NFL owner or general manager doesn’t give him a second chance on the field, they should bring him into the facility to have him deliver his message to their players and to anybody else who has the good sense to listen.

“I lived the dream and I lived the nightmare,” he said.

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ray rice
domestic violence
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