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(Reuters) - The wife of former Baltimore Ravens’ football player Ray Rice said in an interview that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was not truthful when he described Rice as ambiguous about striking her in an elevator early this year.
Janay Rice said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show host Matt Lauer that her husband told Goodell the truth about the assault that left her unconscious in an New Jersey casino elevator in February, an incident that lead to his indefinite suspension by the league in September.
“I know for a fact that Ray told the honest truth that he's been telling from February," Janay Rice responded in a portion of the interview aired on the show's website. The full interview with Janay Rice will air on Monday and Tuesday.
Goodell has said he was not fully aware of what happened in the elevator until the video came out in September and was criticized for not suspending the 27-year-old running back sooner.
Asked by Lauer if NFL officials were trying to protect themselves by calling Ray Rice "ambiguous" about the incident, she said: "I think they did what they had to do for themselves."
On Friday, Rice won an appeal of his indefinite suspension for domestic violence and is now eligible to sign with any NFL team, the league said.
Goodell suspended Rice in July for two games before issuing an indefinite suspension in September.
A hearing officer concluded that Rice did not mislead Goodell when he disciplined Rice the first time and therefore the commissioner acted arbitrarily in imposing a second, harsher punishment based on the same incident and known facts.
Rice said in a statement on Friday that he made "an inexcusable mistake." He said he accepts responsibility and will work to improve himself as a husband while giving back to the community.
Rice had pleaded not guilty in May to one count of third-degree aggravated assault and was entered into a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders.
Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Bernard Orr