Almost immediately after the release of security footage of Ray Rice punching out his then-fiancée in a casino elevator, Rice's fate became secondary to the question of whether the NFL had seen the tape before handing down a two-game suspension. The league said it hadn't, despite earlier reports to the contrary, and today the NFL doubles down with a statement.
"Security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by the New Jersey State Police. Any videos related to an ongoing criminal investigation are held in the custody of the state police. As we said yesterday: We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us."
That statement comes in response to—and appears to confirm—a report from TMZ early this morning that claimed the NFL never attempted to obtain a copy of the video from the Revel Casino, where Rice's assault took place.
Sources who worked at the casino at the time of the incident tell us ... if the NFL had asked for the video, they would have gladly complied.
Multiple sources tell TMZ Sports ... the casino made a copy of the elevator surveillance video for police. We're also told Rice's lawyer had a copy of the video, which he got in the criminal case.
An NFL source tells us they requested "any and all information" from law enforcement in the criminal case but got nothing because it was a pending case. But the NFL had other options ... namely going to the casino or Rice's lawyer — but the NFL never bothered to ask.
The report directly contradicts what a TMZ producer claimed last night: that NFL employees had traveled to the casino to watch the video.
Also today, the Associated Press reports having viewed a longer, higher-quality video of the assault that contains audio. The AP says it was shown the tape by a law enforcement source, and that it shows Ray Rice and Janay Palmer swearing at each other, with Palmer spitting in Rice's face before he threw the knockout punch.
The higher-quality video shown to the AP shows Rice made no attempt to cover up the incident. After Palmer collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, "She's drunk, right?" And then, "No cops." But Rice didn't respond.
This version of the video hasn't been released publicly.