Pryce is right for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- Trevor Pryce arrived in Baltimore this spring, accompanied by a few pieces of baggage beyond his leather suitcase. The former All-Pro defensive end was indignant during his introductory press conference at suggestions he was past his prime, offering several gripes and allegations about being misused and underutilized in the Denver Broncos' defensive schemes.

Now, Pryce has issued a convincing rebuttal to Broncos coach and football czar Mike Shanahan, who deemed Pryce too expensive and too old to retain and jettisoned him as a salary-cap casualty last winter.
Especially in the past month, Pryce has emerged as a vital cog in the Baltimore Ravens' aggressive, second-ranked defense.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, Pryce has a total four sacks over the past four games. That ties him for the second-most in the NFL during that span, including his two sacks of Michael Vick in last Sunday's 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
With Pryce bursting through the line of scrimmage twice last week, it also created pass-rushing lanes for teammates to sack Vick an additional three times. No pass rusher in the league has decked quarterbacks for more lost yardage (43) than Pryce during the past four games.
"Huge, I keep saying it, the presence inside," Ravens coach Brian Billick said regarding Pryce's impact. "You saw the pressure, and now people are having to account for him in ways that are going to open up opportunities for the other guys on the outside."
The Ravens rank fourth in the NFL with 30 sacks and are on pace for 46 this season, which would top last season's mark of 42. Pryce ranks second on the Ravens with 6 ½ sacks behind outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, who has already notched eight.
"You have to account for him," Thomas said of Pryce. "He's a tall, lanky guy who can run and get off the pass and also play the run. He just brought some leadership to the team."
Pryce is a difficult blocking assignment partly because of his physical gifts and an extensive repertoire of pass-rushing moves, including the bull-rush, club, rip, swim and spin moves.
At 6-foot-5, 286 pounds, Pryce represents a blend of size, speed and athleticism. The four-time Pro Bowl selection also carries significant locker room credibility as an honest, experienced voice who owns two Super Bowl rings and 70 ½ career sacks midway through his 10th NFL season. "Have you seen how good he's playing? asked defensive end Terrell Suggs rhetorically. "Trevor's playing outstanding. He's playing defensive tackle. He's playing defensive end. He even played some linebacker in the New Orleans game.
"He doesn't complain about anything. He just lines up and does it. [General manager] Ozzie Newsome did a great job of getting him in here."
Pryce signed a five-year, $25 million contract in March that included $10 million in guaranteed money. The lucrative contract opened legitimate questions about Pryce's surgically-repaired back, his age at 31, whether he consistently played hard or had lost explosiveness as a run-stopper and pass-rusher.
However, that lofty investment has paid significant dividends over the last two weeks.
Pryce blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds to preserve a 27-26 win over the Tennessee Titans, and he consistently busted through the Falcons' feeble blocking to chase down the elusive Vick last week.
"I'm as comfortable as I have been, and it's no different from when I first got here," said Pryce, who has registered 42 tackles for the NFL's third-ranked run defense after totaling just two tackles during last year's postseason for the Broncos. "It's just a chance to make plays. There's a lot of luck involved, at least as far as I know.
"The guys around me have a lot of confidence in what we can all do together. I'm having a good time."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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