An NFL executive got the video of Ray Rice punching Janay way back in April -- and the exec got it from someone in law enforcement ... according to a new report.
The Associated Press is saying a source claims he sent a copy of the video -- first posted by TMZ Sports on Monday -- to the NFL exec, and even got a voicemail from a NFL offices phone number confirming receipt of the video on April 9.
The AP says the source actually played the 12-second VM for them -- and a female voice is heard saying thanks for sending the video and described it as "terrible."
Here's what's curious -- why would the law enforcement official, who admits he was not authorized to share the video, leave his phone number with someone in the NFL ... therefore allowing the leak to be traced back to him?
The NFL is sticking to its story, telling TMZ ... "We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public. We will look into it."