(USA Today) -- The NFL is suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice two games under the personal conduct policy for an altercation that left his then-fiancee (now wife) unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February.
Rice will miss games against two AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, before he's eligible to be reinstated Sept. 12. He'll lose a third game check.
"It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault," Rice said in a statement release by the Ravens.
"As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.
"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that."
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome deemed the ruling "fair" in a statement, adding: "That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again."
Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler and standout during Baltimore's run to the Super Bowl title in the 2012 season, is among five Ravens who have been arrested this offseason. In mid-June, he met in New York with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL," Goodell wrote in a letter to Rice after the NFL confirmed the suspension Thursday afternoon. "The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.
"You will be expected to continue to take advantage of the counseling and other professional services you identified during our meeting. As you noted, this additional assistance has been of significant benefit to you and your wife, and it should remain a part of your practice as appropriate.
"I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career. I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations."
In May, it was announced Rice would enter a program for first-time offenders that would clear his record of a criminal charge provided he met certain conditions, including participation in family counseling. Rice had been charged with third-degree aggravated assault following a Feb. 15 incident at a casino in Atlantic City. At the time, the former Janay Palmer was his fiancée. Both initially were charged with simple assault. The Atlantic County prosecutor's office later dropped the charge against her.
In March, Rice was indicted by a grand jury on the more serious charge of third-degree assault for allegedly knocking her unconscious. The charge carried a potential sentence of three to five years in prison upon conviction. After the grand jury indictment, Rice and Palmer were married.
At a press conference a few days after entering the program for first-time offenders, Rice pledged to again become a role model.
"Sometimes in life you will fail, but I won't call myself a failure," said Rice.
"One thing that I do know is that I am working every day to be a better father, a better husband, a better role model."
Rice, 27, awaits his seventh NFL season. He had four consecutive years with more than 1,000 yards rushing, but his production declined to 660 yards in 15 games in 2013. In February, Rice said he had second thoughts about playing through a hip injury sustained in the second game of last season. But he did not require surgery.
Free agent addition Justin Forsett received first-team snaps in the offseason ahead of Rice and Bernard Pierce, who's rebounding from shoulder surgery.
Meanwhile, the Ravens could potentially face other disciplinary issues.
On July 12, cornerback Jimmy Smith was arrested in Towson, Md., on a charge of failure to obey a lawful order from a policeman. Smith, a first-round pick in 2011.
The Baltimore Sun recently reported on the legal status of the other three Baltimore players recently arrested:
— Wide receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested in February in Gainesville, Fla., for alleged marijuana possession. The case was dismissed after police said another passenger in a vehicle took responsibility.
— Backup offensive lineman Jah Reid went into a pretrial diversionary program following his March arrest in Key West on a charge of misdemeanor battery.
— Lorenzo Taliaferro, a rookie running back, was charged in May in Williamsburg, Va., with misdemeanor destruction of property band drunk and disorderly. He has a court date July 31.
During a May minicamp, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, "I'm concerned, very concerned. We talk to those guys all the time, and I'm disappointed in some of the silliness that's going on."