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09/22/2014 02:24 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

Ray Lewis On Domestic Abuse In NFL: 'Some Things You Can Cover Up.. Some Things You Can't'

If Ray Lewis could go back and choose a different set of words, he probably would.

Speaking Sunday on ESPN's "NFL Countdown," the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker offered his perspective on domestic violence in the NFL, focusing in particular on his former teammate Ray Rice, who was suspended from the team earlier this month after a video surfaced of Rice knocking out his now-wife in an elevator in February.

After offering a passionate defense of the Ravens organization and the NFL's handling of the case ("If they could do this all over again, they would," he said), Lewis turned his attention to the video of Rice punching his then-fiancee in the face and said, "There’s some things you can cover up, and there’s some things you can’t."

It was a terrible choice of words for anyone addressing the issue of domestic violence.

Many victims of domestic abuse literally "cover up" the marks left by their aggressors with makeup, a tactic Refuge.org, a domestic violence nonprofit in the United Kingdom, says is adopted by 65 percent of abused women.

The phrasing was worse still for Lewis in particular, whose own career would have been derailed in 2000, critics say, but for a covered-up double homicide investigation. Lewis ultimately pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice -- a misdemeanor, per USA Today -- for his involvement in the as-yet unsolved murders.

The irony of Lewis' statement wasn't lost on viewers, who took to Twitter to call him out:

WATCH Lewis' regretful choice of words, above. Skip to 1:51 for the "cover up" comment.

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