Even after turning 34 on Monday, there is little doubt that Trevor Pryce is among the fittest Ravens at the start of training camp.
His secret: playing football twice a week during the offseason.
No, not the American version with helmets and shoulder pads. In the spring, Pryce plays indoor soccer in a Denver coed league.
Every Monday and Friday, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Pryce is outrunning an 18-year-old and dribbling around players half his size.
"As big as he is, you would think he would be a big lug and just kill people," said Brandy Bloom, who plays soccer with Pryce. "But he is one of the lightest men on his feet that I've ever seen, especially for his size. You know when Fred Flintstone walks on his toes when he does his bowling; Trevor looks just like that."
The defensive end was recruited to play by Bloom, who coaches Pryce's youngest daughter, Kamryn, 7, in soccer. Pryce decided to sign up for coed because playing in a competitive, all-men's league increases the chances of someone trying to take out his legs.
Pryce's one personal rule is to never use his body. The four-time Pro Bowl defender doesn't want to accidentally drive someone through the walls. That's why he has never been called for a foul.
Comparatively, his goal total barely exceeds that. Bloom remembers Pryce scoring only once. But Pryce's goal is mainly exercise.
Asked how he would rate himself as a soccer player, Pryce said, "On a scale of 1 being not able to play and 10 being Frank Lampard [Chelsea's top active goal scorer], I'm 4 or 5."
Soccer runs deep in Pryce's family. His younger sister, Nandi Pryce, is a member of the U.S. national soccer team. His 60-year-old father plays the game against 30-year-olds.
During the season, Pryce is routinely kicking the soccer ball all over the locker room. He said he doesn't know of any of his football peers who play soccer.
"Honestly, I don't think they could," he said. "I don't know one guy in the NFL that could complete a 90-minute soccer game."
Some even doubt Pryce at the start. When Pryce shows up for games, the other team looks at him and chuckles. "No way," Pryce has heard them say.
Then, he makes a nifty move with the ball and he is gone.
"When they see this 6-foot-5 man out on the soccer field, they sit there with their mouths open staring at him," Bloom said. "He has some skills."
When Pryce has to ace the Ravens' offseason tests, it's like kicking on an open goal. According to Pryce, he once passed a conditioning drill by running backward.
"I'm genetically blessed like that," Pryce said. "That's just the truth. It has nothing [to do] with practice. It has nothing to do with how much I train. It has nothing to do with anything except I'm lucky."
The Ravens signed Pryce in 2006 after they lost Tony Weaver to free agency. Pryce became a dominant force in the middle immediately, leading the Ravens with 13 sacks and finishing with 73 tackles.
But his production has dropped off since that time. In his past two seasons, he has totaled 6 1/2 sacks and 54 tackles.
The Ravens don't appear to be worried that age might be catching up to Pryce.
"Trevor knows how to stay in great shape," coach John Harbaugh said. "Trevor does a lot of training here, but he does a lot of training on his own. Nobody's in better shape than Trevor. We expect Trevor to be an elite defensive lineman."
Injuries (a broken wrist and torn pectoral muscle) limited Pryce to five games in 2007. Last season, he played 16 games but managed 4 1/2 sacks, his second-lowest total in a full season.
"I didn't have a lot of sacks, but I had the same amount of pressures," he said. "I guess I didn't get lucky enough. ... As a pass rusher, I thought I played pretty well. I can't control sacks. I can control pressuring the quarterback, but a lot of other things have to happen for me to get a sack."
Pryce, who is signed through 2010, said he isn't about to quit anytime soon.
"The funny thing is, I was closer to retiring in my fifth year than I am now," said Pryce, who is entering his 13th season. "When you do this for so long, your body is used to the grind. It constantly gets easier the older that you get.
"I have as many seasons as I want to play."
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