When the Ravens opened their organized team activity this week, several veterans were missing, which is nothing unexpected. But considering star tailback Ray Rice’s uncertain contract situation, his absence was particularly noticeable.
The team placed its franchise tag on Rice in March to ensure it held onto the rights of one of the league’s premier backs.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t have an update on extension talks with Rice after Wednesday’s practice, but he didn’t seem too worried about the fact that last year’s NFL leader in yards from scrimmage wasn’t there.
“It’s really not a problem at all. You still run practice. It’s no different,” Harbaugh said. “The young guys are doing a great job. (I’d) love to have all the guys here. (I’d) love for every guy to be here, but it’s not realistic in today’s, probably, business environment and all that. So, we’re just moving forward, but Ray is working hard. I don’t worry about Ray. Ray Rice is working hard. Both Rays (Rice and Lewis) are working hard. They’ll be ready to go.”
Quarterback Joe Flacco shared similar feelings, and even called Anthony Allen, a seventh-round selection in 2011, one of the solid contingency plans available to the Ravens if talks collapse.
Yet Flacco admitted that replacing a player of Rice’s caliber wouldn’t be easy.
“No, not at all. Not at all,” Flacco said. “Ray has been great, especially out of the backfield, and his pass (protection is great) for me because of his understanding of how to run the routes and where the holes are and things like that. That’s why I love Ray so much, is his ability to do that kind of thing. We’ll definitely miss him out here once that time comes for real.”
With Rice a potential holdout, Terrell Suggs working his way back from a partially torn Achilles’ tendon and Ed Reed hinting he’s undecided about playing next year, it would be understandable if that all conspired to distract the Ravens.
But Harbaugh doesn’t anticipate the team being affected by the drama.
“Our guys don’t seem distracted. I don’t think our situations are serious situations,” the coach said. “They are just part of doing business. It’s the way it works. It’s the nature of it. The players have handled it really well. Obviously (general manager Ozzie Newsome) and (vice president of football administration) Pat Moriarty have handled it really well. We all want to get the deals done, and we’re going to work hard to try to get them done.”