Ray Rice says he's "fresh" because of Bernard Pierce

Some star running backs might view the emergence of a rookie rusher as a threat.

But not Ravens do-it-all back Ray Rice.

The fifth-year running back is glad to see Bernard Pierce rounding into a quality contributor the same year Baltimore selected him in the third round out of Temple.

"He's been great," Rice said of his backfield mate. "When you draft a guy that high, you expect him to perform. But I think he's exceeded expectations. For a guy like me, when you sign a five-year deal, you think about how you even got here. Before I became a starter, obviously there was Willis McGahee. And even when Willis was still here, we worked with each other to take care of each other. I just think that's how you last at running back in this league.

"Guys that continue to go out there and take a million snaps, your body's only going to have so many snaps in them. But coach (John) Harbaugh's done a great job of being able to rotate us in and out, and I can honestly say I'm fresh. I'm fresh in the playoffs and healthy. This is the best I've ever felt, but obviously that's because I have a guy that when he gets in there, we don't lose a step."

After failing to run for more than 53 yards in any of the Ravens' first 14 games, Pierce has strung together a 123-yard performance, an 89-yard day and a 103-yard showing over the team's last three contests, including Sunday's wild card victory.

Pierce finished the regular season with 532 yards on 108 carries.

Rice ended the regular season with 257 carries, his fewest since 2009, his second season in the league. However, he did run for 1,143 yards for his fourth straight 1,000-yard season.

Rice believes it helps the team that the two tailbacks don't run the same way.

"Our styles are different," Rice said. "He's a slashing, one-cut guy. Obviously, he has speed as well and I think that's where he gets overlooked because when he hits it, he goes. He's a strider."

And Rice, especially considering his health and freshness heading into his 18th game this season, is happy to have a strong complementary back like Pierce on board.