For a league so concerned with keeping its shield shiny, the NFL really dropped the ball on its discipline of Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

The two-game suspension handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell hardly supports the league's stance of taking domestic violence seriously. The soft punishment is at best a public relations blunder and at worst a sign of the league's lack of respect for women.

Granted, Rice might have won over Goodell with his penance since allegedly hitting his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino. Rice has probably done all the right things. He's certainly done enough to persuade the same woman to go ahead and marry him.

But this is bigger than Rice's progress as a man. The NFL had a chance to take a better stance on a serious issue. The league had a chance to illustrate the league's regard for women. Rice's punishment doubled as a public announcement on the NFL's policy on gender relations.

Of all the times to choose leniency.

We don't need to know everything that happened on the elevator to know it was a horrible scene. We don't need to fully grasp the context of the couple's dysfunction to want a proper response for the disgust we saw with our own eyes.

We saw him dragging his wife out of an elevator. We saw him halfheartedly try to help her up. We saw him walk away as she hunched over in the door of the elevator. Then we learned she was unconscious because he hit her.


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What we do know: The NFL player, who can bench press 405 pounds, should have had the strength to walk away. He certainly had the strength to pick her up and carry her to safety. Instead, we saw a representative of the NFL treating a woman like furniture he couldn't get a good grip on.

And now we also know getting Rice back on the field proved more important than sending a loud message against domestic violence. We know Rice's laudable strides toward civility won out over cleaning the dirty underbelly of NFL culture.

  • Who knows how much Frank Gore has left in the tank. Whatever is, the 49ers need to conserve it. But the pivotal role of No. 2 running back is wide open now that Kendall Hunter has torn his ACL.

    And the top priority for the 49ers should be seeing if Marcus Lattimore is ready for the role.

    LaMichael James, rookie Carlos Hyde, Jewel Hampton and (eventually, hopefully) Lattimore are in competition for those snaps. Among all of them, Lattimore is the most intriguing -- if he can ever get on the field.

    The 2013 fourth-round pick has always had first-round talent. But after sitting out all last year recovering from an ACL injury, he's injured again, spending the opening days of training camp conditioning on the sidelines.

    Still, he could be worth the wait. Lattimore needs to be ruled out before any of those guys are inked in as No. 2.

  • Jake Peavy is the perfect pickup for the Giants. He fits right in with the let's-hope-he-returns-to-form theme of the season. But Peavy takes the intrigue up another notch.

    The Giants are teetering nervously between winning it all and missing the postseason -- which explains the intense search for a starter and the decision to cough up two pretty good prospects for a right-hander on the downside of his once-stellar career.

    It's certainly fair to expect more from a top-10 payroll. But that's where the Giants are -- banking their hopes of yet another World Series run on former stars regaining their stride.

    Peavy embodies the potential and concern of this hope. He has one win in 20 starts this season with a 4.72 ERA.

    But what if a return to the National League, being in a pitcher-friendly park and being reunited with former manager Bruce Bochy sparks a Peavy resurgence?

    And what if that happens and Tim Lincecum can avoid the blowups such as Friday's against the Dodgers and mix in a few gems here and there?

    What if Buster Posey went on one of his MVP tears in August and September? What if Pablo Sandoval can get his slugging percentage up above .450, as it has been in his best seasons?

    Sounds pipe-dreamy. But if it happens, it wouldn't be shocking, considering the Giants' track record.

  • After Day 1 of training camp in Napa, Raiders defensive lineman Justin Tuck was talking the need for change.

    He said he looks forward to proving doubters wrong, and he believes the Raiders have the talent to do just that. But ...

    "We've got to put it together, obviously, and we've got to exorcise some demons that have been here," Tuck said. "We have to change some thought processes of some guys that are used to having 4-12 seasons. The mindset has to change."

    Well, Mr. Tuck, that's why you're here. And Matt Schaub. And LaMarr Woodley. And Charles Woodson. And James Jones.

    Fortunately for the Raiders, the new veterans and all their winning pedigree haven't been shy about speaking up. They've got a lot of work to do changing the culture.

    Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.