NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS News on Tuesday that he hadn't seen the elevator surveillance tape of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee when he initially suspended the running back and claimed the league requested the videotape but wasn't given the opportunity to view it.
"We had not seen any videotape of what occurred in the elevator. We assumed that there was a video, we asked for video, we asked for anything that was pertinent, but we were never granted that opportunity," Goodell told CBS News.
Goodell said what he saw on the elevator videotape was "graphic" and "sickening." He said he first became aware the video was available online when his staff told him "there's new evidence, a video you need to see."
"I would tell you that what we saw in the first videotape was troubling to us, in and of itself,'' Goodell said. "But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, is extremely graphic, and it was sickening. And that's why we took the action we took yesterday.''
He said he didn't know what was on the videotape before Monday but said he's "accountable" for not getting it "right" when he initially suspended Rice for two games.
TMZ Sports released the video that showed Rice assaulting Janay Palmer, now his wife, on its website Monday morning. Later in the day, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice's contract and the NFL subsequently suspended the running back indefinitely.
Goodell left open the possibility that Rice could return to the NFL, saying he won't "rule that out" but said the league has to be confident that Rice has paid the price and is "addressing this issue clearly."
Asked why TMZ could get the video but the NFL couldn't, Goodell said he isn't sure how the website got the videotape but the league relies on law enforcement because it's "the most reliable and most credible."
In an earlier statement Tuesday, the NFL said its understanding was that security at Atlantic City casinos is handled by the state police. In response to inquiries from ABC News, the state police said the statement from the league is not accurate.
"Investigations of incidents on the casino floor are handled by the NJSP, but this occurred in the elevator and was handled by the [Atlantic City Police Department]," an NJSP spokesman said. "We never had the video."
Sources connected with the Revel Hotel and Casino told TMZ that no one from the NFL asked the since-closed casino for the video of the couple in the elevator from the Feb. 15 incident. Instead, the league apparently relied on previously released video that showed Rice dragging his then-fiancee from the elevator before determining that Rice would serve a two-game suspension.
Meanwhile, the office in charge of deciding whether to prosecute Rice defended its decision Tuesday.
"Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances," Jay McKeen, a spokesman for the Atlantic County prosecutor's office, told ABC News.
"The decision was correct."
Goodell received an endorsement from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Tuesday.
"The way he has handled this situation himself, coming out with the mea culpa in his statement a couple of weeks ago, or 10 days ago, and setting a very clear policy of how we conduct ourselves in the NFL I thought was excellent," Kraft said on "CBS This Morning."
"Anyone who is second-guessing that doesn't know him."
Janay Rice defended her husband in an Instagram post Tuesday, writing: "I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my closest friend."