Carolina Panthers

NFL better today because of mistakes in Ray Rice case, says NFL exec speaking in Charlotte

A senior executive with the National Football League said Friday that the organization is working to regain its “standard of excellence” after mistakes were made in the handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case at the start of the 2014 season.

In a Friday morning Q&A with Charlotte’s Hood Hargett Breakfast Club, Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations with the NFL, said the league is working to make the future of professional football a mix of player responsibility and league accountability.

Vincent included himself among league officials who “made a mistake” in how the Rice case was handled.

“There was a policy in place, but the severity of the penalty for that crime was not where it should have been,” Vincent said. “That’s the honest-to-God truth. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: We made a mistake. Myself included … We’re better today because of that mistake.”

The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, then suspended him indefinitely after the release of the TMZ video of the incident in September. He was also released by the Baltimore Ravens. Rice has been reinstated by the NFL but has not been signed by another team.

Vincent said that the public outcry around the Rice case showed NFL leaders that fans’ expectations of the league are higher than ever before.

“You’re expecting us now to weigh in on social issues,” Vincent said, adding that many called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take a stronger stance on domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault, a stance he said many haven’t demanded from local and national government or their own employers. “But you ask the commissioner and his staff to take a stronger stance.”

“I do believe we’ve had a history of giving men a second chance. We’ve all made mistakes,” said the former NFL player.

“We’re beyond a generation where the coach is saying ‘I can fix this guy, he’s such a great talent.’ No, you can’t … His actions say he (doesn’t) want to be here,” Vincent said. “It’s a standard of excellence. We’re getting there; we’re getting back.”

In other comments Friday, Vincent said:

• Deterrents are being put in place for a younger generation of players, where certain types of behaviors would preclude young men from being considered for the league. “It’s about sending a message. Before, we didn’t have deterrents. ‘If you do this (and) you have the dream of playing in the NFL, it affects this.’ We have to have early intervention.”

•  There is increased focus on player accountability and responsibility. “I think, where we’re going, we can be better on the front end. We have to accept there’s a share of responsibility and there’s a personal accountability,” he said, emphasizing learning from “choices, decisions, consequences.”

• League officials could revisit the types of penalties that are allowed to be called under review. Unnecessary roughness and defensive pass interference are two penalties “that can change the complexion of a game,” Vincent said, noting those calls typically result in big yardage but are not reviewable. “(But) what we don’t want to do is open up a Pandora’s box, and everything is being challenged or reviewed.”