Ravens' Rice having a strong offseason

OWINGS MILLS – Ray Rice accelerated into the end zone and didn't break stride until he left the ground, leaping into the air to dunk the football over the crossbar. The Baltimore Ravens' star running back wasn't acting like it was a routine passing camp or like someone who recently had his wisdom teeth removed.

"It's all about having fun," Rice said. "You've got to have some spunk in practice. This is what it's all about. This is where my season was made last year, in minicamps, being here in the offseason. It's definitely been beneficial."

Last season, Rice used a strong offseason to emerge as a Pro Bowl runner as he developed into one of the top all-purpose threats in the game.

Rice rushed for 1,339 yards and caught 78 passes, piling up 2,104 yards from scrimmage last season to rank second in the NFL behind Tennessee Titans runner Chris Johnson.

Now, Rice is making a push for another big season.

He's been in Baltimore ever since the season ended, reporting at a solid 210 pounds.

"I came in at a good, decent weight, about 210 pounds," Rice said. "My weight fluctuates after practice. I want to stay at about 210, 210 is where I need to be."

Rice drew praise from coach John Harbaugh for his diligence in the offseason conditioning program.

"You couldn't have a better offseason than what Ray Rice is having," Harbaugh said.

Other than the pain of having his wisdom teeth removed last Friday, it's been a fairly seamless time for Rice.

"The swelling has started going down, it's not too bad," Rice said. "On Monday, my jaw was a little sore, but now it's pretty good. I was out there running around."

Rice also displayed his sense of humor during a practice this week.

When undrafted rookie cornerback Prince Miller got faked out badly by veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, Rice ran downfield to check on Miller.

"I asked him if he was all right," Rice said. "It looked like Michael Jordan taking his guys to school, basic fundamentals. We knew what Mason was doing.

It looked like the little boy had a little problem. I asked him if he was OK. I don't want him to get offended by it. That's Derrick Mason."

NOTES: The Ravens have yet to sign a veteran kicker to compete with incumbent Billy Cundiff. And he's making his case to hold onto the job, converting six of eight field goals from a variety of distances. He hit a 53-yarder, missing from 40 and 60 yards. The 60-yard attempt was at the end of practice with teammates lobbying for the kick instead of a Hail Mary pass. "He's been kicking very well," Harbaugh said. "I guess they talked me into it. All the guys on the offensive side were saying, "Get him out there and kick it, take a shot at it.' So, I thought he hit it really well. It just came up a little bit short, but it was a great kick." … Reserve linebacker Jameel McClain has signed his exclusive rights qualifying offer, the team announced.


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