BALTIMORE – Ray Rice ran away from linebackers all season, sprinting away from pursuit and bolting into the end zone.
Now, the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl running back is headed toward a dash for cash this offseason.
Rice is due for a significant increase as an unrestricted free agent either in the form of a projected $7.7 million franchise tag or an even more lucrative long-term contract extension.
During the final year of his $3.16 million rookie contract that included a $1.1 million signing bonus, Rice made $600,000 while leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 2,068 yards.
"It's exciting because I feel like I've done everything that I had to do to put myself in the situation that I don't control, it's in the next man's hands," said Rice during a community appearance Tuesday morning at the home of Ravens fan Joanne McShalley. "I pray about it, do everything that I can. When you put yourself in a good position, in a position where you can sit back and say whatever happens, you really don't want to put a price on it.
"Whatever they do, it's going to be more than I've ever had. There was a reason why I never brought my contract situation into that locker room because I wanted to play the game for the love of the game and my teammates. I think we'll get it done. There's no doubt that I'll be here next year."
Regardless of whether Rice is the Ravens' franchise player or signed to an extension, he feels like he can't lose.
Either way, he'll be given a multi-million dollar deal.
His preference is clear, though. He wants the Ravens to lock up his services for the long haul.
"Yeah, I definitely prefer long-term over franchise tag," Rice said. "I'm not going to complain about the franchise tag, either. It puts yourself in a position where you play that year out and guys have done it, but I prefer the long-term. That's what Baltimore, the city, the fans, they would love to know that Ray Rice is going to be here, not just one year, but for many years to come."
There's no doubt about where Rice will play football next fall. He'll remain in Baltimore as the focal point of the Ravens' offense.
"That's a no-brainer," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We're really good about that. Guys that are truly Ravens, keeping them Ravens."
If Rice was designated as the Ravens' franchise player, he would be paid the average of the top five running back salaries.
While the deal wouldn't include a signing bonus, Rice would be assured of weekly game checks of $452,000.
The marketplace for elite running backs like Rice is a rich one.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million contract that includes $36 million in guaranteed money.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson signed a four-year, $53 million extension that included $30 million in guaranteed money.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' five-year, $32.5 million contract included $13 million in guaranteed money.
It's likely that Rice would fall somewhere in between Charles and Johnson in total compensation, but negotiations haven't begun.
"Now, I can sit back and say, ''Look, four years later I've put my chips on the table and that's why you hire agents to take care of that stuff," Rice said. "I feel very confident. It's a confident feeling. I've only felt like this one other time and that's getting drafted. You don't know where you're going in the draft, but you know you're getting drafted."
Meanwhile, Rice has withdrawn from the Pro Bowl where he was voted a starter for the AFC squad.
"I'm actually not going for family reasons," Rice said. "It was a quick turnaround. To be nominated for the Pro Bowl along with several of my teammates is a great honor."
Rice rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
He also caught 76 passes for 704 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the franchise single-season record for total touchdowns scored.
"I've grown so much as a player obviously on the field because the game has really slowed down for me," Rice said. "I became a leader. I wasn't really outspoken as much. I let my game speak for me. It was more of a comfortable feeling. As a person, I realize that we get so enamored of wins and losses on the football field, that you almost forget what happens in the real world.
"It's easy for us to get caught up in that because we're competitors. I took more time to reflect as a person where I've came from in my life, the adversity I had to go through to get to where I am in my life, the adversity other people are going through in their life right now, battling disease, ongoing struggle with poverty. That's why I can't sulk too much after a game. I'm in instant relief mode. I want to help out the next person."
Rice spearheaded the Ravens' charge to an AFC North title, but was contained in the playoffs with 121 rushing yards gained in two games.
That includes just 61 rushing yards on 20 carries during the Ravens' 23-20 AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Rice is intent on improving in every way next season.
"Going forward, I'm always going to try to find an edge," Rice said. "I think my edge this year is going to be doing what I've done this year and building on it and staying the course, being that emotional leader, being that guy in the locker room when things go wrong, pulling the team together, even in the community. Let's bring the community closer together. I know where it comes from with me. It comes from within."
Looking to recharge after playing in 18 games and touching the football 367 times.
He's looking to go one step further next season.
"We wanted to win the Super Bowl," Rice said. "You've got to keep climbing the ladder. This is the healthiest I've been out of my whole career. It's just a blessing.
"You take the highs and lows and you build off them. I'm excited to take my little break and get back to working out and come back in the best shape I've ever been."
Rice surprises family of Ravens fan with home visit
BALTIMORE – Joanne McShalley couldn't believe her eyes when Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice knocked on her door Tuesday morning.
It was a total surprise when Rice greeted McShalley and her family at their Carney home prior to her heading to Hawaii this week for the Pro Bowl with her husband, Frank, and two children after being named an Ultimate P&G Super Parent though the NFL Play 60 program.
"Are you kidding me?" McShalley said. "It's like Publisher's Clearinghouse showing up at your door. Who needs a million dollars? We got it right here. This is great. I'm ridiculously excited. I'm pinching myself. It's a dream come true."
McShalley was selected because of her commitment to raising active children and involvement in the community.
And they'll be treated to a VIP experience at the Pro Bowl, including running the game ball onto the field prior to kickoff.
Rice gave the family jerseys, and he played a quick John Madden video game with McShalley's son.
"Win, lose or draw, she's always going to be a winner for what she's done in the community," Rice said. "That means the world to me. We play a game, but there's people hurting a lot worse than I am after a loss.
"This is a time when I reflect on how blessed I am to play the game of football and to be able to get into the community and help out. It's very special."
NOTES: Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano completed his interview for the Indianapolis Colts' head coaching vacancy Tuesday. The Colts are scheduled to interview San Francisco 49ers special teams coach Brad Seely today. If Pagano gets the job, the top internal candidates to replace him are linebackers coach Dean Pees and defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.
Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was replaced on the AFC Pro Bowl squad by Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai.
Ngata told the Times on Sunday that he battled a thigh injury for the majority of the season.
Ngata finished the season with a career-high 65 tackles with five sacks, five pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
Rice and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs have also pulled out of the Pro Bowl.
Fullback Vonta Leach, free safety Ed Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis are still listed by the NFL as remaining in the game.
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