The Baltimore Ravens knew shortly after Ray Rice knocked out his wife in a hotel elevator that a surveillance video of the assault existed and that Rice's lawyer had a copy of the video, but never asked to see it, sources told ABC News today.
And the claim by Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, that the league was unaware of the brutality of Rice's assault on his then-fiancee Janay Palmer has also come under a cloud because a police report at the time stated clearly that Rice committed assault “by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious."
Goodell has also said that no one at the NFL ever saw the video of the infamous punch until the video was released this week by TMZ.com.
But the Associated Press reported today that a law enforcement source sent the video to the NFL three months ago and played a voicemail for the AP of the source's phone call to the NFL in which a woman acknowledged receiving the video and saying, "You're right. It's terrible."
The NFL issued a statement this afternoon in reaction to the AP story.
"We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it," the statement said.
Rice, 27, was initially suspended for two games for what was described by his lawyer as a "minor physical altercation" on Feb. 15.
The Ravens terminated Rice's contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely earlier this week after TMZ.com released a video showing Rice twice hitting Palmer in the elevator, with the second punch knocking her out.
Both the team and league have said they asked for the video, but police and prosecutors did not turn it over because it was part of a grand jury hearing.
But two sources briefed on the incident and behind-the-scenes discussions regarding the tape told ABC News that the Ravens knew that the tape existed and knew what was on the tape almost immediately after the incident.
The seriousness of Rice's confrontation with his then-fiancee, who is now his wife and who goes by Janay Rice, was first indicated when a surveillance video surfaced on Feb. 19 showing Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. When that video surfaced, Rice's lawyer asked the hotel for the full tape, and the Revel handed it over, sources told ABC News.
The Ravens team also asked the hotel for the full video, but were told by the Revel they couldn't give it out to anyone except someone who was a party to what's on the tape or to law enforcement, the sources said. But Revel officials told the team that Rice's attorney had a copy and the Ravens should ask the lawyer for the tape, the sources told ABC News.
The Ravens did not ask Rice or his lawyer for a copy of the video. Instead, the Ravens and the NFL asked law enforcement for the video which declined to give it up.
It's not clear whether the league was in contact with the Ravens about the incident at this time.
Rice said in his July news conference when he apologized for his actions that he thought the league had all the relevant material, although neither the league nor this team had seen the full video.
The full video was released by TMZ.com earlier this, showing the punch the promptly left Palmer sprawled on the elevator floor. That video triggered public outrage and resulted in Rice being kicked out of the NFL.
In Goodell's version of events, he said the league acted after seeing he full video which he called “extremely clear, was extremely graphic, and it was sickening." League officials have suggested they had not been aware of the full detail of Rice’s assault on Janay Rice.
But documents obtained today by ABC News show that Atlantic City police reported almost immediately that Rice’s assault knocked her out. Rice committed the assault “by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino,” according to the ACPD summons on file at city court in Atlantic City.
A release from the Atlantic City cops at the time also stated that police made the arrests after “reviewing surveillance footage.”
The Ravens have not immediately responded to ABC News' requests for comment. The NFL issued a statement saying it had asked law enforcement for the video and it wasn't given to them.
"We did not ask the Atlantic City casino directly for the video," the NFL said. "Again, our understanding of New Jersey law is that the casino is prohibited from turning over material to a third party during a law enforcement proceeding, and that doing so would have subjected individuals to prosecution for interference with a criminal investigation."