What else could the league have been thinking? All but absolving Rice with a mere two-game suspension for knocking his unarmed fiancée unconscious and dragging her out of elevator necessarily requires Goodell and the NFL to subscribe to a specific kind of philosophy in which Rice's actions are absolvable—one in which he is a nearly passive agent, reacting to events in an understandable if unfortunate way.

If this was indeed the NFL's reasoning, it would explain a lot. It would explain ESPN's bizarre initial reaction. It would explain why the video of the two fighting inside the elevator hasn't leaked yet. (Who would benefit? As Rice's counsel alluded to in his cryptic interview, it would probably make both Palmer and Rice look bad, not to mention that it would force the NFL to confront in public what it decided behind closed doors.) And it would explain how the commissioner of the NFL could watch a video that ends with a man dragging the limp body of his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator and reach the conclusion that what happened at the start—whatever it was—was no worse than, say, a couple helmet-to-helmet hits.