NFL needs to make its decision on Ray Rice

The Baltimore Ravens are about two weeks from starting training camp, and they have no idea on how long running back Ray Rice will be unavailable to begin the season.

The NFL needs to make a decision soon because the league shouldn't punish the Ravens along with Rice, who is expected to receive a multi-game suspension for allegedly striking his fiancée unconscious in February. The Ravens' workload at running back will be based on the length of Rice's absence.

If Rice is going to miss a major chunk of the season, the Ravens would give Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro more snaps this summer, especially later in the preseason. If Rice is only going to be suspended for a couple of games, the Ravens' rotation at running back may not change significantly.

Why is the NFL taking so long to announce its decision? Rice's legal situation was wrapped up on May 20, when he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program to avoid trial on aggravated assault charges. That was 48 days ago.

Rice met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16. That was three weeks ago.

While it's difficult to predict how Goodell will wield his discretionary power, a suspension of two to four games for Rice would follow the league's recent track record with first-time offenders. Let's not forget that Rice has a chance to reduce any suspension through appeal. So, it's unknown when the final resolution will come.

It's surprising that the NFL has prolonged this matter. Everyone involved -- the league, the Ravens and Rice himself -- should want to put this behind them as quickly as possible.