(ABC)–Disgraced running back Ray Rice said Tuesday that he was in “good spirits” and trying to be “strong for my wife” despite being cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the National Football League over a video showing him punching his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
Rice spoke in a phone interview with ESPN hours after his wife, Janay Rice, put out a statement on Instagram defending her husband as “the man I love.”
The statements from Rice and his wife came as the NFL defended itself against allegations that it did not try to obtain the February video of the punch from the Revel Casino Hotel, and as word emerged of a longer and more detailed video of the elevator scene.
In an interview Tuesday evening aired by CBS News, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged he was aware the tape existed and said the league tried to get it, but was not able to obtain it.
“We assumed that there was a video. We asked for video. But we were never granted that opportunity,” Goodell said.
Goodell added that “no one in the NFL, to my knowledge” had seen the video of what happened on the elevator until it was posted online by the celebrity news website TMZ on Monday..
The video released by TMZ and another shown later to the Associated Press by a law enforcement official, show the couple in a heated argument that ended with Janay Rice slumping to the elevator floor after he punched her in the head.
“What we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that’s why we took the action we took yesterday,” Goodell said of the decision to suspend Rice indefinitely, although he did not rule out the possibility of Rice’s returning to play in the NFL.
Earlier Tuesday, Ray Rice told ESPN: “I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong… We are in good spirits, we have a lot of people praying for us and we’ll continue to support each other.”
“I have to be there for (Janay) and my family right now and work through this,” he said in a phone interview.
Rice then handed the phone to his wife who added, “I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.”
Prior to the interview, Janay Rice forcefully defended her husband in an online post, saying his football ban left her “feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend.”
She called the attention to their Feb. 15 fight in the elevator “unwanted.”
“To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his a** off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE!” she wrote on Instagram.
Janay Rice said the stories about their fight and the ban on Rice playing NFL football for now left them hurt, embarrassed, alone and took “all happiness away.”
“Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!” she wrote in the Instagram post.
Meantime, the longer video – shown to the Associated Press on Tuesday by a law enforcement official – shows Rice and his then-fiancee shouting obscenities at each other before the confrontation became violent.
At one point it appeared that she spit in the face of the three-time Pro Bowl running back before he throws the punch that left Palmer sprawled unconscious on the elevator floor. That video includes audio and shows a clearer picture than the grainy TMZ video that was released Monday.
The Revel Casino Hotel declined to comment on whether the NFL had asked for the video, but said it had given it to the police, prosecutors and Rice’s attorney.
The Atlantic City police have not responded to requests for comment, but the prosecutors in the case defended the decision to allow Rice to enter a pre-trial intervention program after being charged with felony aggravated assault – a move that allowed him to avoid jail time and could lead to the charge being purged from his record.
“Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances,” Jay McKeen, a spokesman for the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office, told ABC News.”The decision was correct.”
The president of the New Jersey state Senate called on Tuesday for a review of that decision.