By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - Even as the Detroit Lions prepare for their Sunday game, they have kept tabs on the continuously unfolding debacle that began with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his wife. The assault became the touchstone for a full-blown scandal when the NFL gave Rice an oddly short suspension that looked more inappropriate than ever when video of the punch surfaced Monday.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kevin Ogletree made a bold statement on the NFL's handling of the situation, telling Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should be suspended for a couple of games as a result.
When Goodell suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton in 2012 in connection with the team's bounty system, his statement read in part that Payton contributed to the situation with "failure ... to supervise the players and coaches and his affirmative decision starting in 2010 (a) not to inquire into the facts concerning the pay-for-performance/bounty program even though he was aware of the league's inquiries both in 2010 and 2012..."
Essentially, Goodell himself has already ruled that the man in charge of an organization can be held responsible for not looking closely enough at a questionable situation, for not getting all the information. The NFL suspended Payton for the entire season.
By the commissioner's own standard, it would seem Goodell is similarly deserving of punishment, considering that when video of Rice's punch emerged Monday, the alternative assumptions about Goodell were that either he saw the video and found it acceptable to give Rice only two games or he did not see the video despite the NFL's army of resources that reasonably should be more than capable of procuring such important evidence.
Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, who retired this offseason, criticized Goodell on Twitter. He also suggested that Goodell should be in trouble for his handling of the Rice case.
Lions safety Glover Quin is a player representative, and he said that what happens to Goodell - the final authority on all punishment for players who violate the league's rules - is not up to him.
"That's not my decision," Quin said. "I'm a player, so first I'm going to play, and I'm a player rep, so second I'm going to represent the players, and if we have to come to a decision on what happens with Roger Goodell, I'm pretty sure we'll have some things that we'll talk about as a union, but I'm not here to discuss those things and we haven't got to that point yet, so that's that."
Whether players have input into Goodell's future at this juncture or not, the Rice situation has become a topic in the locker room.
"We talk about the situation a lot," Quin said. "It's a huge situation. Obviously things happen and you wonder what really happened and what really didn't happen and this and this and that, but our main focus really is trying to win football games.
"Luckily we're not the Baltimore Ravens so we don't have to deal with all that that comes along with it, but as you can see, we still have to deal with it some," Quin continued. "We do talk about it, and players do talk and have their opinions and things of that nature, but right now we're trying to get ready for the Carolina Panthers and see what happens with the investigation and all that stuff."
Lions safety James Ihedigbo, who played with Rice in Baltimore, said he does not know what should happen to Goodell.
"That's out of my pay grade," Ihedigbo said. "I can't really talk about the way the commissioner handled the situation. They have an investigator doing all that.
"My opinion on the punishment policy ... it was kind of flawed before this whole incident," Ihedigbo added. "Judge and jury's based on one person or a group of individuals, so that's a whole different story. But on this, he did the best he could at the time with what he had."
In Ihedigbo's mind, someone other than the commissioner should be the one deciding on punishment.
"Yeah, completely independent of the NFL and NFLPA," Ihedigbo said. "You look at the legal system, that's how it works. You have your jury, which is separate from the prosecution and defense. That would only make sense."
Quin said he does not seek out the latest developments in the Rice situation - most recently focused on if or when the NFL saw the video, an important detail about which there have been conflicting statements and reports - but he pays attention.
"If I'm just watching TV and it pops up, oh, I see what happened, or if I get an update on my telephone or something like that, oh, okay, but I'm not sitting there like, 'Oh, man, I can't wait to see what they're going to do about Roger Goodell,' like, 'Oh man, I wonder what they're going to do about this,'" Quin said. "I'm not following it like that, but if I pick up my phone and I see, 'Oh, I see breaking news this morning...'"
As far as the independent investigation the NFL has commissioned, Quin looked less than convinced about what might be revealed.
"Is it independent?" Quin said, making a somewhat skeptical face. "They say it's independent."
As for Rice as an individual - rather than the whole scandal that his actions set in motion - Ihedigbo found it tough to comment because Rice is a friend of his. Ihedigbo said he reached out to Rice on Monday, when video surfaced of the punch.
"It's a terrible situation that took place," Ihedigbo said, "and I know Ray Rice on a personal level, outside of football. It's upsetting. But at the same right, you've just got to let everything that occurred, I guess, take its course, and I reserve my right to really make judgment on the situation.
"I reached out to him," Ihedigbo said. "He's a friend of mine, and I reached out to him and honestly gave him words of encouragement. It's kind of one of those things where you wake up and it's like the world's against you ... So I just gave him words of encouragement, told him I'm praying for him and his wife and his family that things will work out."
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