-- Disgraced running back Ray Rice said today 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 a hotel elevator.
Rice spoke with ESPN's Josina Anderson hours after his wife, Janay Rice, put out a statement on Instagram defending her husband as "the man I love."
Rice and his lawyers had made no public statements since TMZ.com posted a video Monday from inside the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City showing the couple in the elevator, a scene that ended with Janay Rice slumping to the floor after he punched her in the head.
"I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong... We are in good spirits," Ray Rice told ESPN. "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.
Rice 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."
Earlier today, Janay Rice forcefully defended her husband.
"I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my closest friend," she wrote.
She called the attention to their Feb. 15 fight in the Revel Casino Hotel "unwanted."
"To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday 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.
The new video surfaced as the NFL defended itself today against allegations that it did not try to obtain the video of the punch from the Revel Casino Hotel.
Janay Rice, 26, said the stories about their fight and the ban on Rice, 27, playing NFL football 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.
Rice's wife came to his defense as reports emerged of a longer and more detailed video of the elevator scene.
The longer video – reportedly shown to the Associated Press by a law enforcement official – reportedly shows Rice and Janay Palmer shouting obscenities at each other before the confrontation became violent. (Palmer later married Rice and changed her name to Janay Rice.)
At one point it appeared that Janay Rice spit in the face of the three-time Pro Bowl running back before he throws the punch that left the woman sprawled unconscious on the elevator floor. That video includes audio and shows a clearer picture than the grainy TMZ Sports video that was released Monday, according to the AP.
TMZ reported today that the NFL did not ask the hotel for the video. The Revel declined to comment on whether the league had asked for the video, but said it had given it to the police, prosecutors and Rice's attorney.
The NFL responded today saying, "Security for Atlantic City casinos is handled by the New Jersey State Police. ny 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."
The New Jersey State Police said today the investigation was handled by the Atlantic City police. "We never had the video," the state police said.
The Atlantic City police have not responded to requests for comment. The prosecutor in the case declined to discuss the case on Monday.
The league was criticized for initially banning Rice for two games, a punishment many considered to be too light. After the video emerged on Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice's contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely
Outraged response to Rice’s initial two-game suspension promoted the league to establish a mandatory six-game suspension for players who violate the league’s domestic violence policy.
Rice and Palmer married following the incident.
Rice entered a pre-trial intervention program after being charged with aggravated assault and he publicly apologized for striking Palmer.
Revel Hotel Casino, where the incident occurred, closed Sept. 2.