Canton, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The very idea of consistency shouldn't be in the eye of the beholder but Roger Goodell attempted to redefine the word in his first public comments since his widely criticized two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The NFL commissioner said he took all the information he had into account before leveling the punishment on Rice, who was arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence in February after security footage surfaced showing the running back lifting his unconscious then-fiancee Janay Palmer out of an Atlantic City casino elevator.
"Domestic violence is not acceptable," said Goodell at the impromptu press conference, a day before the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies in Canton. "We went through the process of evaluating whether there would be discipline. What's important here is that Ray has taken responsibility for this and has been accountable for his actions."
Goodell was alluding to the fact that Rice was accepted into a pretrial intervention program in an effort to avoid serving jail time, and his latest attempt at a public apology was much better than the scripted and stilted "cellphone press conference" in May.
Rice called his actions "totally inexcusable" and "something I'm going to pay for the rest of my life" at Ravens training camp on Thursday.
"It's important to understand this is a young man who made a terrible mistake," Goodell said. "We're very confident that this young man understands what he needs to do to move forward.
"I was also very impressed with Ray in the sense that Ray is not only accepting this issue but he's saying, 'I was wrong.' I want to see people, when they make a mistake, I want to see them take responsibility and be accountable for it."
Interestingly this is the commissioner the players want, an open-minded arbiter willing to listen and take into account a player's history. In Rice's case, that was a guy who had never gotten in trouble before and who was considered to be a model citizen in the Baltimore locker room.
"Ray Rice did not have another incident. We take that into account," Goodell said when asked to compare the penalty to others, including those that are longer for substance abuse. "When someone has a first offense, and has a strong background ... we take that into account and when there's a pattern we take that into account.
"I take into account all the information before making a decision what the discipline would be. I had the opportunity to hear from Ray, to hear from his wife and other people and I took all that into account."
Outsiders, though, only see a very powerful man who knocked out his now wife cold and can't understand why drug cheats, be it recreational or performance- enhancing, seem to be treated so much more harshly.
The simple answer to that is the NFL's CBA with the players but Goodell has felt no need to explain that to the masses because no matter what he does and how much he's criticized, the league's bottom line, whether it be merchandise sales or television ratings, never takes a hit.
After taking so much heat since announcing the suspension, though, Goodell did finally address that disingenuous argument.
"When we have a drug program that is collectively bargained, it takes four incidents before you actually reach a suspension," Goodell explained.
The commish did attempt to sell a whopper, though, claiming the two-game penalty for Rice was consistent with other punishments handed down by the league.
Taking that tack even though history contradicts it (Terrelle Pryor anyone?) will put Goodell under an even harsher microscope.
There is still plenty on the commissioner's docket, including 49ers star Aldon Smith, who has a long history of off-the-field incidents; and Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, with some conspiracy theorists claiming Goodell took it easy on Rice so he doesn't have to take Irsay to the woodshed.
To be fair, it's a no-win situation for Goodell but by trying to spin his omnipotent power in all matters of personal conduct into some kind of consistency-based hierarchy, he has opened himself up to further criticism.