Notebook: Rice takes a lick, keeps on ticking

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The increased speed of the NFL literally collided with Baltimore Ravens rookie running back Ray Rice against the New England Patriots. During his professional debut Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, Rice was in the open field when Patriots rookie first-round linebacker Jerod Mayo smashed into him so hard on a tackle that the impact knocked off the second-rounder's helmet.

Starting in place of an injured Willis McGahee, Rice shrugged off the hit. Although he rushed for just a dozen yards on six carries, the former Rutgers star maintained his poise and seemed to be one move away a couple of times from generating some big yardage.

"It's a unique experience, the first game," said Rice, who had never even attended an NFL game prior to the Ravens' 16-15 win. "It felt pretty good. I got the jitters out and got the first one out of the way.

"I was more excited and you catch yourself looking around and checking out the situation. It was like, 'They are the Patriots.'"

Rice also caught a team-high four passes for 17 yards out of the backfield as the Ravens began to implement screens and swing passes as a staple of their new-look offense.

"Ray made some plays," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There's a couple of plays he left on the field, too, that he'll be the first to tell you he'll make the next time out, but he competed in there and made a couple of nice runs and he picked up a couple of blitzes, which was good to see."

Aiding Rice's transition to the NFL is Ravens offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg, who was Rice's position coach and offensive coordinator at Rutgers prior to joining the Ravens' coaching staff during the offseason.

"He gives me a lot of tips and pointers here and there," Rice said. "He has been around the league for a long time and around football for a long time, so he has really helped me."

STILL LOOKING FOR A TACKLE: The Ravens had a preliminary discussion recently with the agent for free agent offensive tackle Fred Miller.

However, Miller's preference is to re-sign with the Chicago Bears, according to his agent, Harold Lewis.

Miller, 35, was released in February due to salary-cap concerns. He was schedule to make a $4 million base salary this season as part of a five-year, $25.5 million contract.

The Houston Texans are another potential destination for Miller.

QUICK HITS: Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington intercepted two passes in his first game since being acquired in a trade. The knock on him with the Oakland Raiders was that he didn't like to tackle, but Washington had a big hit in the first half. "Fabian had a big blitz and covered guys well," said Harbaugh, who also praised new cornerback Frank Walker. "I don't think it's any surprise." ... Harbaugh made a strong impression in his first game as a head coach at any level, too. "I think he did a really good job," veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We are all in this together. We are just trying to ride this boat and head it somewhere good. We started off on the right foot." ... Harbaugh's first replay challenge was unsuccessful. He challenged an incompletion on a tackle by rookie linebacker Tavares Gooden on Ray Ventrone that he believed was a fumble. However, the officials upheld their original call after an instant-replay review and ruled that Ventrone never had possession. ... Backup linebacker and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo led the Ravens with eight tackles, including a sack in addition to three quarterback hits. Dwan Edwards, Amon Gordon, Nick Greisen and Gary Stills also registered sacks. ... Reserve cornerback Ronnie Prude's interception with nearly two minutes remaining helped preserve the win. ... With Tom Brady watching from the bench, the Ravens held the Patriots' three backup quarterbacks to a combined 17 of 33 for 144 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and a 25.3 rating. ... Linebacker Prescott Burgess (broken wrist, surgery), defensive tackle Kelly Talavou (shoulder) and Gooden (undisclosed) are the most serious injuries from the game.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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