BALTIMORE - The wife of disgraced NFL star Ray Rice defended her embattled husband Tuesday, saying their lives were ruined by the release of a video showing him savagely knocking her out.
Rice was fired by the Baltimore Ravens and hit with an indefinite suspension by the league after a new video released Monday by celebrity website TMZ showed him punching his then-fiancee in the face and knocking her unconscious.
But Janay Rice said Tuesday in an Instagram posting that the extreme public attention was adding to her misery.
"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.
"But to have to accept the fact that it's reality is a nightmare in itself.
"No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted (opinions) from the public has caused my family." The Ravens were to pay Rice $10 million ($S12.6 million) over the next three years while the league, which had only banned from two games based on prior evidence, now requires any team wishing to hire him to obtain approval from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific," Janay Rice said.
"THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don't you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you've succeeded on so many levels.
"Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!" Even with his wife's support, Rice was in disgraced exile and his career prospects dim.
"I don't think he will play another NFL game," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told CBS. "I'd be shocked if some team picked him up."
Goodell: Rice return possible
But Goodell told CBS that Rice, a running back who helped the Ravens win last year's Super Bowl, could make a comeback.
"I don't rule that out," Goodell said. "But he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue clearly. He has paid a price for the actions that he's already taken." Rice, who in July called his actions "inexcusable", was to have returned from the original ban Friday, a day after the Ravens faced rival Pittsburgh.
"I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong," Rice told ESPN by phone. "We are in good spirits. We have a lot of people praying for us, and we will continue to support each other.
"I have to be there for (Janay) and my family right now and work through this." The video brought home the brutality of Rice's assault and, in its aftermath Tuesday, Nike dropped its endorsement contract with Rice and EA Sports said it would remove him from the player pool of its NFL video game.
Rice jerseys were pulled from the NFL's online store. The Ravens announced they would allow fans to exchange Rice jerseys for those of another player.
TMZ previously revealed a video of Rice dragging his unconscious future bride off an elevator at the now-closed Revel casino in Atlantic City, prompting a two-game ban roundly criticised as insufficient.
Goodell later admitted he had erred and toughened punishments for domestic violence, including a six-game ban for first incidents and potential life bans for repeat offenders.
NFL had not seen punch video
Goodell said the league tried to obtain all video evidence but had not seen the punch video until Monday.
"We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator," Goodell said. "We assumed there was a video. We asked for a video. We asked for anything that was pertinent but we were never granted that opportunity.
"What we saw on the first videotape was troubling. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that's why we took the action we took." Some have called for Goodell's ouster but he said he was not fearful for his job.
"I'm used to the criticism," he said. "Every day I have to earn my stripes." A New Jersey official told ABC News that providing the video to the NFL would have been illegal given the charges that had been filed against Rice over the matter.
Rice was arrested after the incident and charged with domestic violence assault but avoided prosecution by entering a pre-trial intervention programme.