Browns linebacker Eric Barton drills Ravens running back Ray… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
It was the kind of cut Ray Rice has made countless times during his Ravens career. The kind of move that has made him one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL. With 10 minutes left in the game Sunday, and his team struggling to score, Rice caught a pass from Joe Flacco, stepped on the brakes and attempted to zip past a defender. Browns lineman Ahtyba Rubin grabbed just enough of his jersey to twist Rice to the ground.
It seemed like an innocuous tackle after a 4-yard gain. It seemed like nothing. But it clearly wasn't nothing. Rice sprained his knee on the tackle, though how severely he injured it, only the Ravens know.
Afterward, Rice didn't appear in the locker room, and coach John Harbaugh was vague about Rice's diagnosis. It wasn't a ligament tear. Harbaugh would say at least that much. But it seems the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as Ravens fans, will be kept in the dark for a bit about his status for next week and beyond.
"We don't know right now [about his injury]," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing ligamentwise that's a problem, so that's probably where [the evaluation] starts.
That's the most important thing. Cartilage-wise, as far as we know, we don't know the extent."
The team handed out several quotes from Rice after the game, and in them, Rice sounded upbeat about his chances of playing next week against the Steelers. But he was also somewhat vague about the diagnosis.
"Right now, everything is standard," said Rice, who was one of only two players in the NFL last season with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. "I'll take some tests on Monday, but everything looks positive."
Rice was having a strong game before the injury. He had carried the ball 15 times for 80 yards, ripping off runs at 5.3 yards per attempt. In the first quarter, his 25-yard burst off left tackle helped settle a shaky offense that drove for a touchdown.
And his injury, in the heat of the moment, almost went by unnoticed because on the next play, Flacco threw a 27-yard pass to Anquan Boldin for what turned out to be the winning touchdown. But Rice's day was over, his pads stripped from his shoulders, and he quickly found a seat on the bench. The team's trainers knelt down beside him to ask questions and do initial tests, and the Ravens did their best to shield him from cameras and fans for the rest of the game.
Rice seemed to imply he'll be playing next week against the Steelers.
"We're going to prepare hard this week [for Pittsburgh] and hope everything will be good to go," Rice said.
But who really knows? One thing is apparent: Suddenly, the decision not to trade Willis McGahee for draft picks, either in the offseason or the preseason, seems even wiser than it did Sunday. McGahee, who rushed seven times for 29 yards Sunday, didn't seem to mind either. He said after the game that he has never had a problem with the way his role has been reduced the past two seasons.
"It's very easy for me because it's not a lot of wear and tear on my body," McGahee said. "It's saving my body for whatever happens in the future."
Does he feel as if he's ready to carry the ball 25 times a game?
"Without a doubt," McGahee said.