Williams Is The ‘Best Thing’ For Rice

Veteran Ricky Williams has been a standout backup and teacher for Ray Rice.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, December 8th, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

After rumbling for 204 yards against the Cleveland Browns, running back Ray Rice gave props to his offensive line, fullback Vonta Leach and Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery.

On Wednesday, Rice made sure he didn’t leave out the guy backing him up.

“Let’s say, between [Leach] and Ricky Williams, they’ve been the best thing that’s happened to me since I became a Raven,” Rice said.

Williams came to the Ravens as a free agent this offseason and has made little noise since. Yet he’s been a steady, productive force on the field.

He is averaging 4.1 yards per carry stepping in to give Rice a break or just to supply a change of pace. He’s also been excellent as a receiver and pass blocker.

Williams had his biggest game of the year in Cleveland, rushing a season-high 16 times for a season-high 76 yards and a touchdown. That also played a part in Rice’s big day.

“I’ve maintained the ability to stay fresh because we’re not losing anything when Ricky comes in the game,” Rice said. “When Ricky comes in the game, he’s pounding the defense. When I get back in, the next thing you know, the defense is loosened up and I get a big run.”

Williams’ impact off the field may be just as noteworthy. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said, “he’s a pro.”

Williams and Rice have particularly bonded, even though they seemingly have very different personalities and are at opposite ends of their careers.

Williams is 34 years old and is in his 12th season and with his third team. He’s cerebral and quiet, hardly saying a word in the locker room.

Rice is 24 years old and in his fourth year. His energy and laughter bounce around the halls.

“Ricky humbled me,” Rice said. “He’s a great guy and with everything that he’s been through, he’s just a steady teacher. He’s always learning and trying to get better. So I always pick his brain a little bit to see what’s going on.”

Williams – a former Heisman Trophy winner who went to the Pro Bowl in 2002 and 2003 – is fascinated by the path Rice is taking, becoming one of the elite tailbacks in the game. He offers him advise on how to handle that.

“Being in the league for as long as I have and with where Ray is now, I have a different perspective,” Williams said. “It’s interesting to be at this stage of my career and watch him go through what I went through.”

Meanwhile, Williams has 82 carries this season, on pace for far below his career average. He hasn’t been used this little since he retired from the NFL for a year in 2004.

But Williams hasn’t had a problem shifting to being a full-time backup. He said the key to live is “finding contentment” in whatever phase they’re going through.

And whenever he gets the chance, Rice wants to return the favor. After his 67-yard run last Sunday, Rice left the game to give Williams a shot at pay dirt. Williams plunged into the end zone from one yard out for his second touchdown of the season.

“I want Ricky to get that touchdown,” Rice said. “That’s big, when you know you’ve got a guy like that, and he doesn’t complain about his role ever since he’s been here.”

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