Rookie Rice has running start

RAVENS FOOTBALL

August 06, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

Ravens running back Ray Rice has never been to an NFL game. That will change tomorrow night, when the rookie from Rutgers makes his professional debut against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

That Rice will be starting in place of Willis McGahee, who remains sidelined with a knee injury, only adds to the excitement for the team's second-round draft pick. But the excitement should not be misinterpreted as being intimidated.

"I'm ready. I'm in great shape," Rice said yesterday after the team's morning workout at McDaniel College in Westminster. "I think I've had a pretty decent camp."

That's an understatement. Rice, the 55th overall selection after coming out as a junior, has been one of the standouts in the team's first training camp under coach John Harbaugh.

"He's a rookie, but gosh he's had a lot of carries his whole career," Harbaugh said. "As a running back, he's a veteran. It will be new for him playing against an NFL defense, particularly that [the Patriots'] defense, and it will be interesting to see how he'll do.

"But I'd be surprised if he's not up to the task."

Wilbert Montgomery, the Ravens' running backs coach, isn't shocked at what Rice has done so far or the fact that he will be starting against the Patriots.

"It's something that he's earned up to this point," Montgomery said. "He came out here and worked hard and took a ton of reps. He's got a good feel for the offense. I think we're pleased [with] where he's at right now."

Rice has not only demonstrated his ability to slice through holes or turn the corner, but he has also proved he is an able receiver out of the backfield. Yesterday, he caught a ball that was high and thrown slightly behind him. He was able to adjust and turn it into what would have been a big gain.

The biggest adjustment for Rice so far has come on special teams, where he has gone back to take punts and kickoffs.

"Punt returns are a little hard, but kickoff returns are natural. I always wanted to do that at Rutgers," Rice said.

Rice said he welcomes McGahee's return.

"I'm looking forward to his return to see how good a duo we could be," he said.

Rolle returns

Cornerback Samari Rolle, whose arrival in camp was delayed by the death of his father, Harry, dressed yesterday for the first time and will continue to do individual drills before joining the team in practice Saturday.

"I think it will ease my mind and make me feel like one of the guys again," said Rolle, who played only six games last season after being diagnosed with epilepsy and then injuring his shoulder late in the season.

Said Harbaugh: "It's just great to see his face. The guys are kind of relieved and excited to have him back."

Injury update

Cornerback David Pittman, who has been in and out of practice with a foot injury, worked out. ... Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who has been out since early in camp with a sprained knee, continues to show improvement and looked reasonably mobile during strength and conditioning drills on the field.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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