A feel-good entry with a helping of Rice

Ray Rice came up a little short of the NFL rushing title this year, but he still recorded the best season of his four-year career, rushing for a career-high 1,364 yards, leading the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,068 and piling up a franchise-record 15 touchdowns.

And in typical Ray Rice fashion, the running back wanted to show some love to the guys that helped him rack up those impressive numbers.

O-line_watch_from_Rice-tall.jpgSo Rice went out and bought fullback Vonta Leach and his offensive linemen Breitling watches as a way of expressing his thanks.

Breitlings retail anywhere from $4,000-$15,000, so this was a little more than just a pat on the back from the Pro Bowl running back. A picture of the specific watches Rice handed out is at right, courtesy of Leach’s Twitter feed.

The gift might be bit of a waste on center Matt Birk, however, as the 35-year-old jokester commented that he’s never really been the watch type. Asked what kind of watch Rice gave out, Birk sarcastically replied: “Casio? Is that a good one?”

“It’s like no watch I’ve ever had before. It actually has hands on it,” Birk continued. “Ray got us a little something. We should probably be buying him something. He probably makes us look better than we are. (I) certainly appreciate it. I really have never owned a watch before. I don’t know what I am going to do with it. Wear it, yeah, maybe I’ll wear it.”

Moving from one feel-good story to another, reporters were treated to a very cool narrative during yesterday’s media availability, one which involves Birk and right tackle Michael Oher.

Back in Week 1 of the regular season, the two offensive linemen were involved in a scuffle with members of the Steelers defense. During the pushing match, referee Tony Corrente was accidentally tossed to the ground, causing him to hit his head against the turf.

Corrente recounted to Sports Illustrated that when he was still feeling pain and experiencing other medical issues days later, he eventually went to go see a doctor. An exam of Corrente revealed that he had throat cancer, a diagnosis which the veteran referee believes wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t been involved in that Week 1 scrum.

Prior to the Ravens’ Week 17 win over the Bengals, a game that Corrente was officiating, he went over to the Ravens’ sideline and asked head coach John Harbaugh if he could speak with Birk and Oher. Corrente told the two men his story, and thanked them for saving his life.

“Mind-blowing is a good word,” Birk said of his reaction to the news. “Here Mike and I just thought we were probably just being tough guys, getting in a little scuffle after a play, but everything happens for a reason. And the one thing that I know I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, when Tony told that story and just how it relates to him, he said, ‘You know, your whole life, you’re always trying to see your glass as half full.’ And once this whole thing happened, he said he realized that his glass was all-the-way full. And I just thought that was awesome, and certainly talking to him, it was a very humbling experience.

“I’m just glad I could be a part of it. I mean, I didn’t do anything; I’m just glad I was a part of it.”

The story doesn’t end there, however. During the Ravens-Bengals game that day, Corrente spotted Oher holding on a play during the third quarter. As Birk tells it, all Corrente’s pregame gratitude suddenly disappeared.

“I thought the funniest thing was that in that game, Tony called Mike for holding,” Birk said. “How about a free pass? That’s the NFL, huh? You saved a guy’s life, come on!”

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