The Baltimore Ravens resoundingly defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26 to 6 in the season debut of Thursday night football, but as "CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell reports, it was a game played under the cloud of the Ray Rice case, and the continuing scrutiny of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
A performance featuring Rihanna and Jay-Z, set to kick off Thursday night football, was scrapped at the last minute.
"Circumstances surrounding the evolving Ray Rice story are where we must begin," sportscaster James Brown said.
One week after the Ray Rice elevator video surfaced, new questions arose over what Roger Goodell knew about the attack on Janay Palmer, and when.
ESPN, citing four anonymous sources close to Rice, reported the former Ravens running back admitted during a face-to-face meeting with the commissioner on June 16 that he had punched Palmer and knocked her unconscious. If true, that would seem to contradict what Goodell said in his interview with CBS News on Tuesday.
"When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives. It was ambiguous about what actually happened," Goodell said. "That videotape did not leave anything ambiguous. It was clear, sickening, something we had to act on immediately."
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Goodell did not conduct a very thorough investigation, out of deference to Palmer, who eventually married Rice.
"He told owners he did not want to go after Janay Rice and make her answer all of these questions because she had quite frankly suffered enough," said Kevin Clark, Wall Street Journal NFL reporter.
Even as the episode threatened his 8-year tenure as commissioner, Goodell continued to have the confidence of his bosses, the 32 NFL owners. On Thursday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti spoke with James Brown.
"I've known Roger for 14 years," Bisciotti said. "He's dedicated his life to the NFL, and as a man, I can't believe that he saw that video and gave a two-game suspension."
Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey said, "our family has complete faith in the commissioner," while New York Giants CEO John Mara called, "the notion that the commissioner's job is now in jeopardy... misguided."
Mara is actually overseeing the investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller, and unless that probe uncovers clear evidence of a cover-up or wrongdoing, most owners are expected to remain supportive of Goodell.
"They've made so much money since he became commissioner in 2006 that he's very, very good at his job, and owners are going to wait until the last possible option to get rid of him," said Clark.
The NFL says Mueller's investigation will be independent and that its findings will eventually be made public.
Whether that will mollify critics remains to be seen, but one thing is clear, while Mueller is trying to get to the bottom of things, it buys Goodell some much-needed time.