It didn't take much time for Ray Rice to shake out his first-game jitters.
He even had a little help knocking them off.
In his professional debut Thursday against the New England Patriots, Rice was hit so hard by linebacker Jerod Mayo that separated the second-round draft pick from his helmet.
Never missing a beat, Rice quickly popped up from the turf for the next snap.
To him, Mayo's blast was no different than what he's faced every day in Ravens training camp.
"I've been hit by the best out here in our defense," Rice said after practice Saturday morning. "That was kind of natural for me."
Simply being in an NFL stadium was a new experience, however. The 21-year-old from New Rochelle, N.Y., had never attended a pro football game - let along play in one.
"I've never been a part of an NFL experience," he explained. "That's actually the first one that I was actually playing in and being a part of. It was unique for me. I got caught a little bit just looking around when I first got into the stadium."
Filling in for Willis McGahee, whose sore knee kept him out of action, Rice rushed six times for 12 yards and caught a team-high four passes for 17 yards.
While averaging 2.0 yards per carry may look paltry for a back that managed 5.4 yards an attempt in three years at Rutgers, Rice seemed one step away from breaking a big gain on multiple occasions.
The threat of Rice reeling off a chunk of yardage helped Baltimore's quarterbacks do their job in the passing game. Under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the Ravens use play-action to keep defenders honest.
In addition, head coach John Harbaugh was incredibly impressed with how the 5-foot-8, 205-pound Rice managed to pick up the blitz against much-larger Patriots.
"Obviously, if you can't pass protect at this level, you're not going to last very long," said Rice. "As short and as small as I am, I really have to pass protect. I can use my leverage of being short to my advantage. I can't let guys get under me. I've got to be low. That helps me out."
Rice continued to fill in for McGahee in Saturday's session, along with fellow running backs Cory Ross and Allen Patrick.
Here are some more notes and observations from Saturday's session:
- For the first time in training camp, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Samari Rolle practiced.
Reed, whose tender shoulder kept him off the field, wore a red jersey signifying that he couldn't be contacted by teammates. Harbaugh said that he expected the four-time Pro Bowler to be cleared for contact after the Ravens' next preseason outing.
The main concern is strength and "nerve tissue."
"There is a bone in there that gets a little smaller and smaller as time goes on," said the coach. "As long as he's strong, he's OK to play."
Rolle is working to get his conditioning back after the sudden death of his father two weeks ago kept him away from McDaniel College. Rolle was solid in his first action since May's mandatory minicamp, batting away two passes.
In addition to McGahee, the Ravens were also without cornerbacks Chris McAlister (knee) and Fabian Washington (undisclosed); linebackers Dan Cody (leg) and Prescott Burgess (wrist); tackles Jared Gaither (ankle) and Adam Terry (ankle); defensive tackles Kelly Talavou (shoulder), Kelly Gregg (knee) and Haloti Hgata (knee); tight ends Daniel Wilcox (foot) and Todd Heap (leg); and wideout Demetrius Williams (leg).
Gaither and Terry stood on the sideline without the boots they had worn for much of camp. Terry seems to be close to returning, as the four-year veteran worked diligently on his kick-out on a side field.
In addition, Ngata continued his progress, hitting a blocking sled and running through dummies with no apparent effects on his sprained MCL.
Wilcox and Williams also worked out with Ravens trainers.
- Linebacker Bart Scott drew fullback Le'Ron McClain offsides during full-team action when he rushed up on center Jason Brown from the second level.
Scott then sniffed out McClain on an option pitch from quarterback Troy Smith, drawing raves from linebackers coach Greg Mattison.
- Tackle Mike Kracalik was solid again in practice, picking up a blitzing Scott, and then switching his focus to a similarly-rushing Corey Ivy.
Kracalik played every offensive snap in New England, starting the game at right tackle before switching to left tackle in the second half.
- Wideout Yamon Figurs made a few nice catches, including one where he blazed by safety Haruki Nakamura for a deep reception. Figurs also caught a pass over the middle that would have been an impressive haul, considering linebacker Ray Lewis pulled up just short of de-cleating the receiver.
"Whooo!!" Lewis said. "That would've hurt!"