Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has been suspended four games for a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy, stemming from "evidence of threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors" by Smith toward his former girlfriend that showed "a pattern of improper conduct," according to a statement released by the team.
The league announced the suspension Aug. 21.
The Ravens' organization has held players and draft prospects to increased scrutiny with regards to domestic issues in light of the situation involving former running back Ray Rice. The team statement said "the Ravens fully support the NFL's decision."
Smith has been involved in what the team described as a "long-running and difficult custody dispute" with the mother of his son, which has now been resolved.
The Baltimore Sun reported that in a court filing last year, Smith's former girlfriend said he had a "history of substance abuse and illicit drug usage" along with a history of being physically violent toward her. Smith denied that at the time.
In a statement released through the team after his suspension was announced, Smith said, "I would like to sincerely apologize to my former girlfriend, the NFL, the Ravens organization, my coaches, my teammates, my fiancee and all our fans. I'm very disappointed that my past actions have led to this suspension. I promise that I have already learned much and will continue to learn more from this experience. I believe I am, and will continue to try to be, a better person and a better father because of this. I am committed to being the best I can be, both on and off the field.
"I take full responsibility for my past conduct," Smith continued. "Moving forward, I will work with the NFL and the Ravens to ensure that what happened in the past will never happen again. I will take all necessary steps to be a positive role model for both my sons, for the NFL and for the entire Ravens community."
Smith, who turned 30 last month, is one of the top cornerbacks in the league when healthy, but injuries have been a constant companion during his seven-year career. He has played all 16 games just twice, and he missed the final four games last season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Smith also was hit with a four-game suspension last season for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, but he could serve that suspension while injured.
Smith finished with 28 tackles and three interceptions last year. He has played 86 career regular-season games for the Ravens, recording 249 tackles, one sack and 11 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
In the past, Smith's absences for various injuries have been deeply felt, with replacements in the secondary faltering in critical situations. This year, the Ravens came to training camp with what is considered their deepest cornerback group in years. While Smith is suspended, former first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and veteran Brandon Carr are expected to be the starters.
Under rules of the suspension, Smith can practice with the team during the preseason, but he can have no contact with the organization during the first four weeks of the regular season. He will be placed on the suspended list and won't count toward the initial 53-man roster.
Smith will miss games against the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be eligible to return when the Ravens visit the Cleveland Browns Oct. 7.
The suspension could cast into question Smith's long-term future with the team that drafted him in the first round (No. 27) overall in 2011. He is in the third year of a four-year $48 million contract extension that has been restructured twice, pushing more money into future years. His salary cap figure is $15.35 million this season -- second-highest on the team behind quarterback Joe Flacco -- and $15.85 million next year.
The Ravens have been vigilant about domestic-related issues ever since Rice's domestic violence case rattled the franchise in 2014. Since then, the Ravens have said they will rule out prospective draft picks who have domestic violence incidents in their past.
But in the statement on Smith, the Ravens stressed that they reviewed the case and are willing to stand by Smith after his suspension ends.
"We consulted with relationship and domestic violence experts for their perspectives," the Ravens statement read. "We convened a group of Ravens women and men executives, not directly involved with our football operations, to review the matter. We also engaged in conversations with Jimmy about his past behavior and his intention to change."
"As a result of this entire process," the statement continued, "we will allow Jimmy to return to our team after his suspension. Jimmy has acknowledged his behaviors were wrong and accepts full responsibility for them. He has completed a clinical evaluation and has agreed to undertake any follow-up care or treatment that may be recommended.
Through our conversations with Jimmy, we believe he is taking the proper steps to improve and that he can change. Jimmy has assured us that he is fully dedicated to making this change. He also understands the consequences if he does not."
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