Report: Ravens knew about Ray Rice punch from the beginning

The Baltimore Ravens were aware of the details surrounding Ray Rice viciously punching his then-fiancee inside a casino elevator soon after it happened, reports ESPN's Outside the Lines.

The report, citing 20 sources over a span of 11 days, claims that the Ravens have known since February that Rice threw a punch with a closed fist. However, despite coach John Harbaugh's request to remove Rice from the team, the front office decided to keep him with hopes of the situation blowing over.

Instead, the video inside the elevator showing Rice punchins his now-wife, Janay Rice, was published two weeks ago by TMZ, which led to the Ravens releasing Rice from the organization.

However, when the organization released Rice, they did so claiming that the running back's original story differed from the video tape. However, the ESPN report alleges that both a member of the Ravens' security team and Rice's attorney told the front office that the attack was bad. Rice's lawyer, Michael J. Diamondstein, reprotedly told Ravens team president Dick Cass that the footage was horrible, and that it would be a disaster if it was ever made public.

Therefore, the two decided it would be in Rice's and the team's best interest to enter into a pretrial diversion program, so that the video would be sealed by prosecutors. However, all it took was TMZ to get a hold of the second video to send an already-bungled situation into a deep nose-dive.

The situation has all the makings of a classic cover-up. The Ravens didn't want to lose the running back that has won them lots of games over the years, and hoped that time would make people forget what happened. Then the video came out and the organization had to distance themselves, and painted Rice as a liar in the process.

The only problem is that Rice saved text messages from owner Steve Bisciotti, right after he penned a letter to Ravens PSL owners giving the organization's side of the story. And after essentially calling Rice a liar in that letter, claiming his side of the story didn't match what was on the video, and saying the same in subsequent media interviews, he told Rice that he would have a job with the organization once his time in Baltimore was over. This was taken by the Rice camp as Bisciotti offering him long-term job security to keep his mouth shut about how everything transpired.

This seems like a near-impossible hole for the Ravens to climb out of. And that's saying a lot, considering the mess they got themselves in from the onset. The Ravens will try to deny this. And then they'll hope Roger Goodell's "independent" investigation ultimately clears them.

Following Sunday's game against the Browns, postgame questions likely won't focus much on the game itself.

And guess who will likely be there answering them all by himself once again.

The only member of the Ravens staff that appears to have a conscious at this time -- John Harbaugh.

Follow me on Twitter: @JasonHButt

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