Rice, speaking to the media at his sprawling home here for the first time in an exclusive interview with TheYellowDailyNews, said instead he "should only have backhanded" Janay, who he subsequently married.
"I made the biggest mistake of my life," Rice said.
Domestic violence groups applauded Rice, saying his acceptance of responsibility was a first start, and should set an example to other men considering punching their loved ones.
"Our research has shown that backhanded blows to the face deal significantly less force than straight-on punches to the face," said Rita Smithovitch, president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "We should applaud Ray Rice's acceptance of responsibility."
Rice has pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault charges and was admitted to an intervention program to avoid trial.
"I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident."
Because Rice admitted to using excessive force, the NFL was considering lifting the All-Star running back's two-game suspension and $530,000 fine, according to NFL sources, speaking to TheYellowDailyNews on condition of anonymity and granted anonymity by TheYellowDailyNews because of the sensitivity of the topic, and because the sources have not been authorized to speak to the media.