Ray Rice throws his game equipment into the stands at Heinz Field… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
After going into Sunday's game in Pittsburgh expecting to play sparingly because of a sprained right knee, Ravens running back Ray Rice found himself in the game down the stretch due to injuries to both of his backups, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain.
All three are expected to play this Sunday against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium, and Rice, who had 20 yards on eight carries aagainst the Steelers, said Wednesday that he is healthy enough to start.
"I'm getting better every day," Rice said before practice in Owings Mills. "My knee's feeling better. I definitely feel capable of going out there and doing my job, whether it's taking the load or it's not taking the load. My job is to go out there wherever they put me in a position to make plays. Whatever the coaches have in store for us, I am going to give everything I have."
A healthy corps of running backs will certainly be needed against the Broncos, who held Tennessee's Chris Johnson to only 53 yards on 19 carries Sunday. Johnson's longest run from was an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of Denver's 26-20 win.
McClain, who came out of Sunday's game at Heinz Field after complaining of numbness in his right shoulder, said Wednesday that he expects to be used as a fullback against the Broncos. McGahee, who had 39 yards on 14 carries and scored the Ravens' first touchdown, was sidelined after getting hit in the head.
McGahee was not available for comment Wednesday but participated in practice.
Rice said that having depth at running back "definitely makes it easy" when it comes to dealing with injuries.
"It's frustrating when you're not out there," Rice said. "At the same time, you got guys who are capable of getting the job done. And the one thing the coaches know about me is that I'm not going to go out there and put my team in jeopardy if I'm not 100 percent."
McClain said that he expects to block for Rice and McGahee against the Broncos since "their goal is to stop the run and make you beat them with the pass." The role is one he played as a rookie in 2007 after being drafted out of Alabama.
"I'm cool with it, it's frustrating at times just with all the hard work I put in [in preparation as a running back] this off-season," said McClain. "I'm still in the same position I was in last season. It gets frustrating at times, but you've got to work hard, do whatever I can to help the team and keep getting W's, that's about i
Gaither not ready
Right tackle Jared Gaither said Wednesday he has not been cleared by his Los Angeles back specialist to return to the field, and that he is still bothered by constant pain. Gaither, who has yet to play this season, practiced once in a limited role last week and could not go the next day.
"Whatever I can take, I'm going to push it to that limit," he said. "So obviously it was kind of painful out there practicing, and I knew I wouldn't have been a help to the team throughout the season and throughout the game playing that way. So I pulled back, and I just need more time to do rehab.As soon as I get better, I'll play."
Gaither was examined by Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday, and the visit confirmed that he still has a problem with the seventh, eighth and ninth vertebrae in his back. Gaither suffered a thoracic disk injury the first week of training camp.
Sept. 29, Gaither tried to practice.
"I just wanted to see how much pain I could take before I could try to help the team," Gaither said. "My overall goal is to help the team as much as I can. With that being said, I wanted to see how much pain I could take to see if I could even play with the pain, or see how much progress I made. That's what that was last week.
"I knew in the back of my mind what I felt like, but I really wanted to see if I could get out there and play through the pain. And it was [significant] enough that I couldn't."
Asked what has to happen to get back on the field, Gaither said, "I'm not sure. I can't block at 100 percent yet … I still have pain and I still can't [make] all the movements, so I guess I won't be cleared until I can do that."
Defensive end Paul Kruger, who suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee in Pittsburgh, will be out from two to four weeks with the injury. The injury occurred when Kruger deflected and nearly intercepted a pass by Charlie Batch in the fourthquarter. On the play, Kruger was hit in the knee by a Steelers lineman.
It marks the second time Kruger, a second-round pick a year ago, has been injured this season. The game against the Steelers had been his 2010 debut.
"It's hard," he said. "I've never been injured my whole life, and now I've had two in the past month. It's definitely been something that's tough to deal with. But I'm getting through it and I'm positive I can get through this in due time and get back on the field."
Newly signed offensive lineman Scott Kooistra said he has no preconceptions about his role with the Ravens