The Ravens are accustomed to being one of the best running teams in the NFL, not one of the worst.
Ray Rice is used to being near the top of the league in rushing, not averaging the second-fewest yards per carry among qualified running backs (2.7).
Rice has spoken many times about Baltimore’s struggles in the ground game, but Wednesday marked his first chance since the official midpoint of the season arrived with the team ranked 29th in the league with 71.6 rushing yards per contest.
Rice, who has averaged 1,266.5 rushing yards per season over the last four years, has just 259 in playing in seven of the Ravens’ eight games. He’s on pace to run for 555 yards in 2013, which would be his lowest total since his rookie year.
Rice missed one game because of a left hip injury and has been affected by it for much of the season. But there has been talk that maybe he’s lost a step at age 26, having been worked so much over his first five seasons. How does Rice respond to such talk?
“Keep working,” he said. “If you watch the film, you understand that we’ve been playing pretty good fronts. Like I’ve said, we’ve got eight games left and that’s my focus now. I’ve been working on my health. My health is there. Now’s the time to keep pushing for these next eight games and win the ones that we have at home.”
Rice is choosing to look at the silver lining - he still has eight games to go to rediscover his game and help the Ravens turn things around after a 3-5 start.
“Everything is still there (in front of us). Everything is still there. We’re just taking a different route,” he said. “This is my first time in my entire life being in a situation like this. I’ve always been on the plus-positive side ever since I was a kid. So there’s a first time for everything. But at the same time, I know where I stand on this team. I know I’m a leader, and now I’m just going to go out there and try to be the best Ray Rice I can be for the second half of the season.”
So, where is Rice’s confidence level that the Ravens can get their running game in order in the second half?
“My level of confidence is where it was in Week 1. I still believe we’ll get the run game going,” he said. “We have the guys. It’s never going to be an effort thing, and we’ve just seen some pretty good fronts and I’ve battled through some stuff this year. It feels good to go out there. I don’t have to hesitate to do anything. I just want to go out there and let it fly for the next eight games. I’m just trying to go out there and be the best Ray Rice I can be for the next half of the season.”
Update: Cornerback Jimmy Smith (thigh), linebacker Daryl Smith (thigh) and wideout Brandon Stokley (thigh) all sat out practice Wednesday. Receiver Marlon Brown (finger) was a limited participant.
Update II: Safety James Ihedigbo responded to allegations from Cleveland wideout Greg Little that he choked the receiver during one of their scuffles Sunday.
Ihedigbo denied choking Little.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that this is even being an issue. It’s a divisional game. Things get physical, get rowdy,” Ihedigbo told reporters. “I would never personally cross a line or play outside the rules in any manner. You can freeze the clip and some surface looks like whatever. I have my hand on his chest. It is what it is. He ripped off my helmet and threw it. I guess he’s looking back on him losing his cool and saying what took place that didn’t take place.
“I mean, the refs would have seen it. Other players would have seen it. And I would have been punished for the play as well. That didn’t take place. He lost his cool, threw my helmet and therefore the penalty was given on him. To sit back here and say now that all this other stuff happened and it’s Wednesday and the game was played on Sunday is kind of ridiculous to me. So it definitely looks to me -- I’m not a dirty player by any means -- but it looks to me like he knows that he lost his cool and doesn’t want the league to take it out on him and fine him for throwing my helmet, so this is what kind of has come of it.”