During a conference call with the Patriots media this week, tailback Ray Rice let the public in on when he might call it a career.
It's understandable if it seems ludicrous that the Ravens tailback is discussing retirement even though he's just 26. But Rice will turn 27 in January and is in the middle of the most difficult season of his career.
Rice has just 605 rushing yards and 868 yards from scrimmage in 13 games after ranking among league leaders each of the last four seasons. A hip injury suffered in Week 2 has limited him all year, and who knows? It could possibly turn out to be a problem for his performance going forward.
Rice indicated that he would consider retiring at age 30, as he doesn't want to be a veteran running back hanging on at the end, unable to perform at an acceptable level.
"You know it's always something to think about at the running back position," Rice said on the conference call. "I'll just put it out there - my goal was to make it 10 years in the NFL. Anything after 10, if I can't do it the way I want to, then it's something to think about. But I'm young. I came in the NFL at 21 years old, a young guy. So I'm still young. I'm only going to be 27 in January. So, there's a lot of football left to be played. With that being said, I have priorities, too. You know I have a young daughter, and you've just got to put all that in perspective when you're going out there week-in and week-out, especially when you get older in your career."
Rice has had a lot of mileage put on him over his first six seasons with 1,413 carries and 360 receptions in 90 career games. So he's maybe a little older football-wise than your average 26-year-old running back.
Considering every carry, catch and game has come in a Ravens uniform, Rice hopes it stays that way until the day he calls it quits - whenever that might be.
"That's the one thing that is not fair to say because we don't get to choose where we go. We kind of just got to do what we do," Rice said. "Obviously I've laid my foundation here in Baltimore. You know it's a great city and it's been great to me. But, you know, who knows what the future can hold? If I can retire a Raven, that would be great. But it all depends on the running back position, too. The wear and tear of a running back, obviously it's true. So you don't want to be going out there and tarnishing something that you're already doing well. I'm doing well, and that's where it's at."
Rice also spoke about why he has had such difficulty producing this year, pointing to his hip as the main reason.
"I've been dealing with injuries this year. This has been a different year for me," he said. "Everybody plays through different things, and my numbers are what they are, but I'm doing what I can do to help my team. The injury I had this year wasn't something that you just bounce back from and say, 'Oh you know I had a hip...'
"It is definitely very hard to play through week in and week out. So when I look at things like that, statistics, I don't worry about things. You know, I've proven myself over the years, Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl. That (other) stuff really comes a dime-a-dozen. Right now, I'm really focused on this year. ... As far as being healthy, I'm healthy enough to go out there on Sundays. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Note: Rice returned to practice Thursday after sitting out a day earlier with a thigh injury. He practiced in a limited capacity. Tight end Dallas Clark (illness) also was back practicing fully after missing Monday.
Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) and linebacker Albert McClellan (neck) were the only ones to not participate. Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee) was a limited participant.