PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Ravens running back Ray Rice shunned all contract talk last season, taking the high road and focusing on the task at hand.
Even Head Coach John Harbaugh wouldn’t hold it against Rice if he opted to hold out this summer.
“Ray Rice is a man. He loves football. He wants to be in there with his teammates,” Harbaugh said at the owners meetings. “I’m hoping he’ll be there from Day One. I would expect him to be there from Day One.
“But if he’s not, I’m not going to hold it against him as a coach. We just need the best Ray Rice that’s possible for the first game.”
“If his agent convinces him that he has to [hold out], Ray is not the kind of guy that we fear will come in out of shape,” Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti told the Baltimore Sun. “If he does it, he does it. But I don’t think we’re going to see a drop-off in his performance this year.”
Titans running back Chris Johnson struggled at the start of last season after holding out for much of the summer. Larry Johnson held out in 2007 and followed it up with a disappointing season.
Sports Illustrated scribe Peter King doesn’t think Rice would suffer the same fate.
“I don’t think it matters for him,” King told BaltimoreRavens.com at the owners meetings. “The only way it would matter is if he’s not there by August 20th or 25th or something like that. You want to have some training camp and I think he’d be in by then.”
Rice is coming off his second Pro Bowl season in three years. He ran for a career-high 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. He caught 76 passes for a career-high 704 yards and three more scores.
How much longer can he keep that up? That may be a key question in negotiations.
Rice has 959 career carries. It’s something to monitor even though he is just 25 years old. In just three seasons at Rutgers, Rice toted the ball 910 times. He ran it a staggering 380 times as a junior.
All of that leads into the thought of how long running backs can stay at their peak.
“It’s like miles on a car. That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s hard to get a big contract,” King said.
“He obviously has shown no signs of slowing down. I think he’s going to be a big factor for the next three or four years. But then you want to put the price on it, and I think the prices on running backs are going down. That’s why he may have to play for the franchise number this year and he may have to play for the franchise number next year.”