Ray Rice has bruised knee

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice suffered a significant contusion on his knee, an injury that was initially feared to be much more serious. A magnetic resonance imaging exam determined that Rice didn't damage his ligaments or cartilage, and he hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's pivotal AFC North clash against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rice injured his knee when he was tackled by Cleveland Browns nose guard Ahtyba Rubin after a four-yard reception in the fourth quarter. It's believed to be his right knee, but the team hasn't made an announcement regarding which knee Rice injured.

If Rice is unable to play Sunday, the Ravens will start former Pro Bowl runner Willis McGahee. McGahee rushed for 29 yards on seven carries in relief of Rice on Sunday against the Browns.

The Ravens also have Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain and could also work in third-string running back Jalen Parmele.

"Willis has obviously proven himself again," Harbaugh said. "Le'Ron is going to be able to run the ball. Jalen Parmele is a guy you all haven't seen too much, but if he gets a chance to run the ball, he can do it, too. So, we like our running back situation."

Rice has rushed for 210 yards and was one of two players to top the 2,000 mark for yards from scrimmage last season, joining Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson.

After the game, Rice didn't speak with reporters. However, the team distributed comments from him where he seemed upbeat about his prospects.

"Right now, everything is standard," said Rice, who rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries against Cleveland. "I'll take some tests on Monday, but everything looks positive right now."

Possibly not having Rice against the Steelers' aggressive defense is a major blow for the Ravens. Last season, he rushed for 88 yards and caught five passes for 67 yards during a 20-17 overtime win in Baltimore. He also rushed for 141 yards in a 23-20 loss in Pittsburgh last December.

"Ray Rice is a good player," Harbaugh said. "We'd sure rather have him."

The Ravens called timeout after Rice landed on his knee and he left the game and was attended to by trainers and doctors on the sideline.

"I'm not sure," Harbaugh said. "He just had a bruise. It's a pretty significant bruise, and he just didn't feel like he could go. He talks to the trainer, and he's out. And they let us know, ‘Hey, Ray Rice is out.' So, we put Willis in."

In three games, McGahee has rushed for only 37 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries with a long run of nine yards.

McGahee is only averaging 2.3 yards per carry, but has three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and has gained 5,824 career yards with 51 touchdowns.

He's more of a power runner than Rice, a diminutive, all-purpose back. His stiff arm is impressive. He rushed for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh two years ago.

"Ray is a physical runner, too, so I think we've got physical runners," Harbaugh said. "But Willis is 240 pounds, and he brings it. He's a load. I like the way Willis runs. And I like his personality, like the way he's practiced, the way he's prepared for the season. He'll be ready to go."

This is a key game for the Ravens (2-1), who are one game behind the Steelers (3-0) in the AFC North.

A win would allow the Ravens to be no less than tied for the division lead following road games against the Bengals, which beat Baltimore, and the Steelers.

On the strength of their defense and running back Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers are surprisingly undefeated despite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL personal conduct policy.

"We don't care, it doesn't make any difference to us," Harbaugh said. "You asked me last summer what I thought about the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger. Does anybody remember? None of you wrote it. What did I say? I said they're going to be a very good football team no matter who is playing quarterback, and that's turned out to be true, right?

"So, listen: This is a darn good football team. They have a great defense. They have a great running game. They have dangerous wide receivers. Their special teams are much improved. We're not surprised they're 3-0, but we don't care. We're going to play the game."

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