Ray Rice
Former Baltimore Ravens NFL running back Ray Rice and wife Janay arrived for a hearing at a New York City office building on Nov. 5, 2014. Rice apologized to the city of Baltimore and Ravens fans for committing domestic violence against his wife. Reuters

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice issued a public apology Friday to the city of Baltimore for his role in the domestic violence incident that resulted in his release from the team and indefinite suspension by the NFL last fall. In the statement, Rice described his family’s time in Baltimore as “the best of our lives” and thanked the franchise and top Ravens executives, including team owner Steve Bisciotti.

“To all the kids who looked up to me, I’m truly sorry for letting you down, but I hope it’s helped you learn that one bad decision can turn your dream into a nightmare. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and I apologize for the horrible mistake I made. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I hope to make a positive difference in people’s lives by raising awareness of this issue,” Rice said in a statement obtained by the Baltimore Sun. “Thank you, Baltimore Ravens, for all you have done for my family and I. I’m very grateful to Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, and everyone at 1 Winning Drive. I love you all very much, and I’ll always be proud to say I played for the Baltimore Ravens,” Rice added.

The 28-year-old, who was reinstated to the NFL by an arbitrator last November, remains a free agent but plans to continue his career, sources told the newspaper. Rice will move back to his home state of New York to pursue a new contract with an NFL team.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games for his May 2014 assault of then-girlfriend and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator. But the leak of surveillance footage that explicitly showed Rice delivering a knockout blow led the Ravens in September to terminate his contract and Goodell to issue an indefinite suspension.

Rice appealed the suspension on grounds that he did not mislead NFL investigators as to the nature of the domestic violence incident, and that he had already served the league’s first penalty. Independent arbitrator Barbara S. Jones ruled in Rice’s favor on Dec. 1 and reinstated him to the league, effective immediately.

Rice, who played for the Ravens for six seasons, has not worked out for any NFL team since his reinstatement. He implored NFL teams in December to give him a second chance. “They would have to be willing to, you know, look deeper into who I am and realize that me and my wife had one bad night, and I took full responsibility for it,” he said. “And one thing about my punishment and everything going along with anything that happened is that I've accepted it. I went fully forward with it. I never complained, or I never did anything like that. I took full responsibility for everything that I did, and the only thing I can hope for and wish for is a second chance."