Ever since injuring his left hip against the Browns on Sept. 15, Ray Rice hasn't looked like himself.
He's been a little off all season, but since leaving the win over Cleveland, his burst, quickness and ability to cut haven't been what the Ravens and their opponents had been accustomed to.
Rice felt flashes of his speed around the edge in the loss to the Steelers, and now he's back to work after a bye week that helped move him toward full health.
"It was every bit much-needed," Rice said Wednesday. "I felt myself turning the curve after the Pittsburgh game, felt pretty good. I've been coming out of games getting better and better each week. So having a week where you're not even getting touched, that definitely paid dividends. I got a chance to enjoy my family as well. So that's always special. So it was a two-for-one deal. You get to enjoy the kids and get healthy at the same time. It really felt good."
The struggles of Rice and the running game have been well-documented. The Ravens rank 28th in the NFL with 74.0 rushing yards per game.
Rice has run for just 242 yards in six games, eclipsing 45 yards just once (74 yards at Miami on Oct. 6). Both Rice and backup Bernard Pierce have contended with different physical troubles, so Rice is glad the Ravens brought in veteran Bernard Scott this week to be the team's third back.
"I've always admired the guy. He was definitely the scat back in Cincy. He's a quick-hitter, speed," Rice said. "We've always had that continuity here with the running backs. As much as I was the guy, even last year we had three running backs with myself, Pierce and Anthony Allen. So now with Bernard Scott, we're just adding another third dimension to our backfield. ...
"This is my first year dealing with something that's not what you call normal for me, but at the same time, you play a position that is very physical. So having all hands on deck really helps us out, especially going forward for this last push."
Now that the Ravens are readying to face the Browns for a second time, Rice was asked about an accusation from Cleveland nose tackle Phil Taylor, who indicated Rice spit on him in the teams' first meeting on Sept. 15.
Rice hadn't addressed it with the media before, but said that isn't what happened in the contest.
"It's old. There's nothing that came out of it," Rice said. "It was two guys jawing at each other and I had my mouthpiece in, so when I went to say something back to him, it looked as if I projected toward him. But I had my mouthpiece in, I was saying something, he was saying something, and obviously that's what happened.
"Really, Phil Taylor is a great young player. He's coming along very well. He's making plays in their running game, dominant force. I've got tremendous respect for him and he's a guy, as long as I'm in the AFC North, it looks like we'll be going at each other two times a year. Obviously, that was the past. I've got to keep my head level in that situation and I don't want to feel myself in a situation or make it seem like me and this guy have problems. I don't have a problem with him, but you know what? Guys talk. That's part of their game and I really don't want it to be a part of mine, so I do my best to channel my emotions, knowing them guys are going to make some plays and just hope that I'm going to come out and make a little bit more."
Update: Right tackle Michael Oher (ankle) was the only player to sit out of practice Thursday. Linebacker Josh Bynes (finger/thigh), guard Kelechi Osemele (back/knee) and wideout Brandon Stokley (thigh) were limited participants.
Defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee), center Ryan Jensen (foot) and running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) fully participated.