A vested interest

Trevor Pryce

Ravens defensive lineman puts the burden on himself to ensure a healthy 2008 season

August 02, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun reporter

Age will not catch Trevor Pryce this season. Nor will the memory of his misfortune from a year ago.

Pryce, who turns 33 tomorrow, took a pre-emptive strike at both enemies this offseason. In an attempt to sharpen his body, the Ravens' veteran defensive lineman wore a 48-pound vest like a second skin and drank wheatgrass by the gallon.

He swam, biked, lifted weights and ran sprints in the vest - went the extra mile to make sure his 12th NFL season would be nothing like his 11th NFL season.

Remember 2007? After starting the first two games, Pryce broke his wrist and played just three more games. He went on injured reserve in November with a torn chest muscle.

His absence, along with the departure of Adalius Thomas via free agency in the offseason, sent the defense reeling. The Ravens' sack total plummeted from 60 in 2006 to 32 last season. Their win total dived from 13 to five.

Pryce prefers not to remember.

"Did I get hurt last year? That's how far it is behind me," he said. "I'm not even looking at 10 minutes ago. ... If you look back, you wind up missing what's in front of you."

What's in front of Pryce titillates the Ravens. With new-found strength and unsappable endurance, he could reclaim his unofficial title as the NFL's premier inside pass rusher.

"He's in outstanding physical condition right now," defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. "He blew away the conditioning test [six straight 150-yard shuttles] with ease. The last 25 yards, he kind of backpedaled.

"It's a tremendous help for us [having him back]. We really need that inside presence."

Pryce, who played nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, worked with Steve Hess, the strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets, in an arduous offseason regimen.

Everything Pryce did included his adjustable weight vest, even in the pool.

"The stuff I did this past offseason was on the verge of suicide at times," he said. "[Like] swimming with 50 pounds of weights on your back. I almost drowned in 5 feet of water. ... But the things I do to keep in shape allow me to come out here and run around kind of crazy."

That's what gets the attention of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan - how a 12th-year veteran can look the part of a much younger player.

"It's amazing all the years he's played and yet he's a little kid, or a young man, mentalitywise. And what shape he's in," Ryan said.

Pryce's offseason workouts were so strenuous that, by comparison, coach John Harbaugh's first training camp is, well, almost a breeze. At 6 feet 5, Pryce is superbly athletic and carries weight well. He reported to camp at 285 pounds, but remarkably, despite the combination of heat and two-a-day practices, he gained 5 pounds. These practices, he says, aren't as intense as his private workouts.

It helps that Harbaugh gives players older than 30 every third day off in a concession to age and injury.

Not only does Pryce think he's in the best condition of his life, but he also thinks he's stronger than he has ever been. Known throughout his career as a finesse pass rusher, he has striking power this summer.

"I've always been a finesse player, and I'm a big guy," he said. "So if you've always been a finesse player, when you [jolt] somebody, it shocks the hell out of them. ... [Now] I can strike somebody as hard as anybody else."

Pryce led the team with 13 sacks and 73 hits on the quarterback in 2006. He lines up over center in the Ravens' 3-4 defense and at left end in the 4-3. He casts a long shadow in the locker room, as well. "He's great with the younger players," Brooks said. "He's 10 years older than Haloti [Ngata]. He's got some experiences playing that these guys remember watching when they were kids. He treats the young guys really well."

Pryce has a calming influence over the team. He is insightful and engaging, operates his own record label and is musically talented. He is not the prototypical angry defensive lineman.

"He's a very smart guy, very cerebral," Brooks said. "He's a pretty good-natured person. During games, now, he gets serious about what he's doing. But outside the lines, he'll laugh and play with the best of them."

This year, after a torturous 2007 season, he might even get the last laugh.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

For daily updates from training camp and a new Ravens Insider blog with behind-the-scenes information, go to www.baltimoresun.com/ravens

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