Ravens Not Fretting Possible Ray Rice Holdout

John Harbaugh said he wouldn’t hold it against Ray Rice if he’s not at camp Day One.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, March 30th, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

Ravens running back Ray Rice shunned all contract talk last season, taking the high road and focusing on the task at hand.

But as of now, Rice is set to play under the $7.7 million franchise tag and teammate Terrell Suggs said he wouldn’t report to camp on time if he were in his shoes.

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.”

Rice is known for being a hard worker during the offseason. He often tweets about “grinding” and earlier this month told one follower that “the idea of always being underrated drives me every day.”

“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.”

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