By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Football League on Friday defended its handling of a domestic violence case against Josh Brown, but temporarily barred the New York Giants kicker from games and practices after newly released documents showed his then-wife accused him of a years-long pattern of physical and emotional abuse.

The NFL suspended Brown in August for one game following his arrest in May 2015, when his then-wife, Molly, told police he grabbed her by the wrist during a heated argument at their home in Woodinville, Washington.

But in documents the King County Sheriff's Office released on Wednesday, Molly Brown said the Giants player had been physically abusive toward her more than 20 times. The documents also included journals and written statements by Brown in which he admits to being abusive.

The NFL's response to the case is a test of its tougher stance on domestic abuse and players' personal conduct more broadly after the league admitted in 2014 to mishandling domestic violence allegations, including the famous case against Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens.

Facing a crisis in America's most popular sports league, a chastened NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assured the American public that the new policy would be comprehensive and tough.

After the new documents on the Brown case surfaced, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said on Thursday that the league would "thoroughly review" the new information.

And on Friday, the NFL placed Brown on the Commissioner Exempt list, which forbids him from attending practices and games on a temporary basis while the league investigates the case.

Social media users and bloggers have accused the league of enforcing a suspension that was too lenient given the scope of the accusations and said the league should have investigated the Brown case more carefully.

NFL spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said on Twitter on Friday, however, that "four different individuals working for the NFL" contacted the King County police seeking information during the league's investigation and were denied access to the evidence.

King County police Sergeant Cindy West told Reuters the sheriff's office does not release case details to businesses or private citizens while they are still open and that the detective closed "her end of the case."

"The detective determined that it was unlikely the victim would testify," West told Reuters. "Without her testimony there's no way we could go to trial."

The couple has since divorced, according to media reports.

Brown's agent did not immediately return a call requesting comment and a spokeswoman for the NFL Players Association declined a request for comment.

The Giants said the kicker did not travel with the team for its Sunday game against the Los Angeles Rams in London and that the team said it would "revisit this issue" following the trip.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Mary Milliken)