Sprinting up hills, lifting weights and studying footage of last season, Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice is making the most of a relatively solitary offseason. Working out on his own away from team headquarters due to his unresolved contract status, the unsigned franchise player has maintained his high standard of conditioning. The diminutive former Rutgers star is still checking in at a chiseled 5-foot-8, 212 pounds. "Training is something that I never worried about," Rice said Saturday during Ray Rice Day at Calvert Hall. "It's something that you got to want. I actually have the burning to desire to come back, not only for myself, but to come back ready to play. My training has always been part of my routine.
"Nobody ever had to beat me in the head to get up and work out. Anybody who knows about my workout regimen, I've probably been through two before noon. Training has never been my issues but obviously, the team camaraderie, the lockout and all that stuff, that's the stuff that you kind of miss with the guys. But as far as being ready, I know I'll be ready."
Rice, 25, didn't discuss his contract situation.
The Ravens have continued to hold a dialogue with Rice's agent, Todd France. Meanwhile, Rice has yet to sign his $7.742 million franchise tender and isn't planning to report to offseason workouts and practices until a new deal is negotiated.
Under NFL rules governing franchise players, the Ravens have until July 16 to negotiate a long-term contract extension with Rice. If a deal isn't worked out by that date, then Rice will play the entire season under the tag.
Rice has been training with former Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook.
"He's in great shape right now," said Mac James, Rice's personal trainer. "The biggest thing with Ray is he's one of those guys that always wants to work. Sometimes, I have to scale him back. I don't want him to peak too early. He'll be in great shape and ready to go.
"He's very lean. His weight is down. He's controlled his eating this offseason. The good thing is he's not frustrated. He's staying positive. The contract will take care of itself."
Rice rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards and a dozen touchdowns last season. He set a franchise record with 15 total touchdowns and led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.
And Rice looks ready to do it again.
"Ray works," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "That's one thing that he will do whether he's with us, back in Jersey or around here locally. You know that he's going to work. That's not a concern for anyone
Rice led the Ravens with 76 receptions for 703 yards and three touchdowns and had runs of 53, 59, 67, 70 and 70 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Intent on not being caught from behind, Rice has been studying video from last season to try to become more of a home run hitter as far as breaking long runs.
He's trying to improve his already impressive speed.
"He's definitely faster," James said. "He's doing a lot of quick burst stuff to hit the hole at top-end speed. He and I looked at a lot of game film and he mapped out, 'This is what I need to work on.'
"The good thing is, Ray is a true critic of himself. He doesn't blow smoke up his own butt. He wants breakaway speed and to be able to maintain it. We work on that. We work on pad level, everything."
NOTE: Rice said he welcomes the arrival of third-round running back Bernard Pierce, a former Temple standout who rushed for 3,570 career yards and 53 touchdowns in three seasons for the Owls.
Pierce is regarded as the frontrunner to be the primary backup to Rice following the surprise retirement of Ricky Williams.
"One thing I know about the NFL, I've always said that one back really can't do it all no more," Rice said. "I'd love for a guy to give me a spell or give me a breather. I was genuine and I was serious about saying that Ricky Williams was the best thing to happen to me last year because this is the healthiest I've been. Quite frankly, going into my fifth season, this is the best I've ever felt.
"You've got a guy that wants to take the load off you. You don't get too many of those guys, but he is a rookie. He's got some ways to go. I won't mind letting him in there and letting him get some banging in. We have some great backs, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry. So, there's going to be some nice competition going on there. One thing I build with the group is camaraderie. I tell them, ‘Listen, we have a long season. Take care of your bodies right now, don't abuse it and get ready for a long season.'"
Ray Rice a hit with kids at free camp, says he'll bring home Super Bowl
Ray Rice gripped the microphone tightly like a football, delivering a powerful message to match his running style.
Along with giving advice and encouragement to roughly 700 children Saturday morning during Ray Rice Day at Calvert Hall, the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl running back drew applause by stating his goal for this season.
"I'm going to do my job and bring a Super Bowl back to Baltimore," Rice said during his annual football camp that he expanded this year to Maryland in addition to holding the camp in New Rochelle, N.Y., his hometown.
Rice was in constant motion at his free football clinic, overseeing drills and counseling youngsters ages 7 to 14 to have fun and show respect to their parents and coaches.
During one drill, Rice emphasized: "Make sure you grip that football right. Don't fumble."
Rice was assisted by teammates Vonta Leach, Anthony Allen, Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams, Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams, retired former Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson and members of the Towson University football team.
"Look at these kids, they're nothing but smiles," Rice said. "I love the kids, I love being active in the community. I kind of feel bad for the kids that didn't get in. To see the smiles on these kids' faces is priceless
"It definitely brings me back. I didn't have a chance to meet a lot of NFL players growing up. My name is attached to it, but Ray Rice Day is really a community of people coming together for one cause and that's for the kids to be happy."
Under heavy demand, the camp registration sold out in 48 seconds.
The football stadium was packed with kids and parents.
"The fact that it sold out in like point-zero seconds, shows the type of impact he has in our community," Smith said. "I'm excited to be here and to help support him."
Lou DiRienzo, Rice's coach at New Rochelle High School, came down from New York to support the former Rutgers star.
"Ray Rice is special," DiRienzo said. "He's still the same humble kid he always was."
Plus, Rice's mother attended the camp.
A single mother of four children who teaches special-needs children in New York, Janet Rice bestowed a strong work ethic and character to her son.
"My mom is obviously the No. 1 person in my life," Rice said. "My goal was to always give her something better. We never made excuses for our situation. What we didn't have, I didn't go out to the streets and I didn't go out to do wrong. I said, ‘We're going to have to make our way.'
"Quite frankly, she's instilled those tools in me to not only be a great person but to be a family man. I want them to have fun, but I want them all to leave here knowing that they're all winners and they all have the same opportunity I had. It's a fun game, so why not come out here, teach them some fundamentals and discipline and let them apply that to life."
Torrey Smith fully cleared after offseason sports hernia surgery
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has recovered 100 percent after undergoing surgery in February to repair a double sports hernia that he played through last season.
The former University of Maryland star said he's fully cleared for all offseason organized team activities and a June minicamp.
"Yeah, I'm good," Smith said Saturday during Ray Rice Day at Calvert Hall. "I've been running routes. I'm good to go. I'll be doing everything."
Despite the ailment, Smith caught 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.
When did Smith realize that he could trust his body again?
During his charity basketball game in Virginia and during another basketball game at wide receiver Anquan Boldin's charity event in Florida.
"I played in my basketball game and had like five dunks," Smith said. "I played in Anquan's and had like five dunks."
Unlike a year ago during the NFL lockout where Smith had to work out without the guidance of coaches, the second-year wideout has the benefit now of improving his game at the Ravens' $35 million training complex.
"I'm definitely excited about that and just the growth," Smith said. "The learning curve is over. I'm just ready to try to keep improving and try to get better each and every day
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