Rice says thigh is fine, will have to prove himself again after rough campaign

Ray Rice started this week again unable to practice fully, this time by a thigh injury that limited him when the Ravens returned to work Thursday.

The 26-year-old running back was glad to have a couple of days off before he got back on the practice field in preparation for Sunday’s regular season finale at Cincinnati.

“Tuesday was a great rest day of recovery. Coach (John Harbaugh) is doing his best to try to take care of us. For me, having a long year, I needed the rest,” Rice said. “It definitely felt good getting back out there with the guys and catching up to speed. I don’t miss much when it comes to being in meetings and everything, but there’s nothing like getting a live rep out there. So it definitely felt good to get back out there with the guys today.”

Is Rice’s latest injury at all related to the hip ailment he suffered in Week 2?

“It’s not related to the hip at all. It’s different,” he said. “It was on the injury report as a thigh. It’s a thigh.”

It has been a frustrating year for Rice, who will fail to run for 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie year (2008) unless he smashes the NFL single-game rushing record by racking up 355 Sunday.

Rice has run for just 645 yards and four touchdowns while adding 51 catches for 286 yards in 14 games, by far his lowest totals in his time as a featured back. Rice is used to ranking among the NFL’s best in yards from scrimmage, so it would be understandable if it was especially difficult on him personally.

“It’s life. From a personal standpoint, I’m understanding that I played through a lot this year,” Rice said. “So for me to get back out there and just battle and not worry about what I’ve got to do statistically and coming out week in and week out, statistically I put all that stuff aside. But personally, I’m glad I was able to overcome some things. Like I said, I’ve had a platform NFL career and everything has been great.

“Even for some of the people that say you lost a step, it’s different when you have an injury that controls things that you’re normally good at doing. So I had to battle that this year, but needless to say, I’ve still got to focus on this year and finishing out this year as strong as I can, and next year will be next year. I’ll make sure I come back in the best shape - bigger, faster, stronger, whatever you want to call that stuff - just to prove myself again that I’ll still be a premier running back in the NFL.”

Injuries, especially the one to his hip, have made this a different year for Rice, directly contributing to his struggles running the ball. He has never been through a year like this physically.

“I’ve dealt with shoulders, I’ve dealt with sprains. And getting a muscular kind of injury, it is different,” he said. “But that’ll put my mindset on something that I need to work on in the offseason, whether it’s working with the smaller muscle groups ... that’s something I know I can fix. It’s kind of crazy. I didn’t have any shoulders or ankles or stuff like that. I had purely muscular kind of deals where maybe something that changed for me, maybe less muscle and more speed. It might be something I want to change up. But that’ll be an offseason study for myself.

“I’ve always sculpted my body to be ready for the season and I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done training-wise. I think I came into the season in great shape. This just happened to be a freak deal, something I probably wasn’t used to.”