Despite NFL lockout, Ravens' Rice staying 'in great shape'

Running back speaks to city school about nutrition and fitness

  • Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake looks on as Ravens running back Ray Rice speaks to NACA Freedom and Democracy II School about fitness and nutrition.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake looks on as Ravens running… (Baltimore Sun photo by Jed…)
April 12, 2011|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

Ray Rice spent Tuesday morning speaking at NACA Freedom & Democracy II School, which had the highest participation of any Baltimore City school in "Fuel Up to Play 60."

Teaming with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Rice has been a strong advocate to the nutrition and fitness program aimed at battling childhood obesity.

"Putting the right food in your body and exercising is very important," Rice told the students. "That's something I take a lot of pride in."

The Ravens running back apparently practices what he preaches. Looking svelte in his white No. 27 jersey, Rice seemed ready to dodge and dash past defenders to get to the end zone.

Unlike former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, whose weight fluctuated in the offseason, Rice made the point very clear Tuesday: the NFL lockout doesn't stop him from a workout.

"I feel I'm in great shape," Rice said. "Our facility is great, but I'm a guy that our coaches know I get after it when it comes to working out. I think they trust that I'm going to come back in shape."

Rice added, "I'm not one of the guys they have to monitor and ask, 'Is he working out?' I think in the back in their mind, they know the guys that are working out and the guys they have to worry about."

Rice said he's been working out in his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y., and his old stomping grounds at Rutgers, where he practices once a week with Mike Teel, his college quarterback.

"It's been a lot of catching and throwing, a little bit of running routes," said Rice, who led the Ravens in catches in 2009 and finished second in 2010. "A lot of running back stuff is just natural ability, but you really don't want to miss a beat on catching. It's something you can work on — seeing the ball, catching the ball. That's what I need to stay sharp with."

At a time of uncertainty in the league, Rice is the only experienced Ravens running back on the roster that is guaranteed of returning. The Ravens' backfield may soon have a different look because fullback Le'Ron McClain could be an unrestricted free agent and backup running back Willis McGahee likely will be released.

Adding a fullback or a big-body running back in the draft is something Rice believes he could handle entering his fourth NFL season.

"One thing I know now is I'm a veteran," Rice said. "I can teach a little bit more when I'm out there playing. It's one of those situations where I hope Le'Ron McClain is in front of me. But with the situation going on, you can only wish for the best. Whoever is in front of me, with the leadership ability I have now, it's going to be a great experience."

The top fullbacks in the draft are Stanford's Owen Marecic, USC's Stanley Havili and Tulsa's Charles Clay. The Ravens could also look at selecting a big-bodied running back that can complement Rice, like Alex Green (Hawaii), Roy Helu (Nebraska), John Clay (Wisconsin), Jordan Todman (Connecticut), Delone Carter (Syracuse) and Stevan Ridley (LSU).

Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said the team needs another back to save the wear-and-tear on Rice.

"I guarantee you, if you asked [Rice] honestly, he don't want to carry the ball 25, 30 times a game because of the pounding that you take as a running back," Mason said on 105.7 FM. "You're getting hit on every play."

That's why Rice will be an interested viewer come the NFL draft at the end of the month.

"I'm looking forward to Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] doing his thing," Rice said. "I'm sure it'll be an interesting draft. Regardless of the lockout, I'll still be tuned in because obviously whoever we pick will be on our team."

Note: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said he has no doubt who would win a boxing match between him and safety Tom Zbikowski, who is 3-0 as a professional boxer. "Zbikowski would lose," Lewis said in a blog on the NFL Network. "We've already talked about that. Zbikowski is a realist when it comes to the sport. The locker room talk is always that about who can beat who. He'll be the first to tell you he's not going to get in the ring with a 250-pound person. That's crazy!"

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jamisonhensley

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