John Mara said the Ray Rice incident and its aftermath has been a "wakeup call" for the NFL and said a just-concluded investigation will stimulate changes that will enable the league to better respond to such incidents in the future.
"We are going to take those recommendations to heart and have a full discussion about them, and hopefully we will do a better job of investigating these matters going forward," Mara, the Giants president and chief executive officer, said today on a conference call. "Obviously, the (league's) investigation was inadequate. We are all aware of that. We need to do a better job going forward, and I believe we will.
"I think going forward we will probably have a very healthy discussion about it, and you'll see us put even more policies and procedures into effect because our goal here is to try to do whatever we can to eradicate domestic violence within our league and to take appropriate steps to punish those who are guilty of these violations. (NFL) commissioner (Roger Goodell) has made it a focus of his over the past few months, and it's something that we're all committed to doing."
Goodell received substantial criticism for initially giving Rice only a two-game suspension for striking his then-fiancé, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City elevator on Feb. 15, 2014. When a more detailed video of the incident was revealed by TMZ, Goodell came under further criticism for not being aware of it beforehand. On Sept. 8, the day the video was released, Goodell changed Rice's punishment to an indefinite suspension.
Two days later, Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II were named by Goodell to oversee an investigation into the NFL's handling of the Rice domestic violence incident. Rooney joined Mara on today's conference call.
The independent investigation was conducted by former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who today released his findings.
Mueller concluded the NFL did not see the now-infamous video of Rice striking Palmer until the public did. But he also said league could have done more to properly investigate the charges.
"We concluded there was substantial information about the incident -- even without the in-elevator video -- indicating the need for a more thorough investigation," the report said. "The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident."
Mara disputed a reporter's contention that the league did the "absolute bare minimum" and engaged in "willful ignorance" regarding the Rice incident.
"I certainly do not believe that it was willful ignorance, and I don't agree that they did the absolute minimum," Mara said. "It had been the league's practice for many years to defer to law enforcement, and I don't think that we had the sophistication to know any better. We certainly wanted to get to the truth here, and they made an attempt to do so. Unfortunately, it was not enough.
"But I think this was a wakeup call for all of us that if we really want to do a better job in the future, then we have to really strengthen our resources within the league office. We have to really focus on getting to the bottom of these matters, because obviously we didn't do a very good job in this case. But it certainly, in my opinion, was not a case of willful ignorance."
Since the Rice incident, the NFL has instituted a new and much more stringent personal conduct policy. The league now intends to take the information and conclusions from Mueller's report and further refine its policies.
"We are grateful to Director Mueller for conducting an extremely thorough and detailed investigation, and we accept his findings and recommendations," Goodell said in a statement released his afternoon. "I want to express my appreciation to John Mara and Art Rooney for their leadership. Director Mueller made a series of very constructive observations and recommendations regarding our prior investigatory procedures. We have already addressed many of these points in the revisions to the Personal Conduct Policy that were announced last month. I look forward to reviewing these recommendations with the league's new Conduct Committee chaired by Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill.
"While this investigation has now concluded, our focus on the underlying issues and our commitment to positive change remain as strong as ever. We have all learned a great deal in the past months and expect to be judged by how we lead going forward on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault."
Mara and Rooney are confident the NFL will respond more favorably to these difficult issues in the future.
"I agree with John Mara's comment that this was really, I think, a wakeup call for the whole league and maybe society in general, that we all need to take domestic violence more seriously," Rooney said. "I think that with a new personal conduct policy that the league has put in place, number one, it allows commissioner Goodell to take a player off the field who has been charged with this kind of violation, and if the league's investigation determines that a violation in fact occurred, then the first offense requires at least a six-game suspension. There is no question that the tougher policy and the investigation team have been strengthened, and I think we will be strengthened in the future."
"I think that responsibility falls on all of us, all 32 clubs," Mara said. "I think this whole matter, as tragic as it was, at least was wakeup call to all of us that we've got to take these issues a lot more seriously than we have in the past. We better have tougher and more effective policies and procedures in place going forward, because we need to do a better job than we've done in the past. I think we've started down that road already and I'm confident that we're going to be much more effective in dealing with these issues going forward."