Insight to the Limelight: Rice Returns to the Past

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SPOTLIGHT - Film Study

Just prior to the Ravens' season opener last Sunday, Ray Rice fired up his DVD player to look at game tape. But what popped up on the screen had nothing to do with the Kansas City Chiefs. Instead, Rice watched something that reminded him of what he was capable of doing to them.

"I turned on my highlight tape from Rutgers," the second-year running back told me this week. "Watching that pumps me up and gives me confidence. It helps me remember how far I've come."

After producing an All-American career for the Scarlet Knights – setting every school rushing record along the way – Rice has certainly taken his game to a whole new level. Listed atop the Ravens' depth chart, the 5-8, 210-pounder dished out 108 rushing yards against the Chiefs. One of only five NFL backs to eclipse the century mark in Week 1, he helped spark an offense that gained a franchise-record 501 total yards.

"Inspiration. That's what I draw from watching my old games," Rice adds, noting that he'll occasionally flip on his high school highlight tapes as well. "That fuels me. When things are going well, they serve as a reminder of the hard work I've done. At the same time, when I'm down or need a boost, they pick me up a little bit."

In addition to watching old film of himself, Rice carefully studies the NFL running backs who came before him. Specifically noting Barry Sanders, whose smaller stature mirrors his own, Rice constantly seeks out ways he can progress.

"I definitely watch Barry's highlights, because what he did was amazing. The guy was quick, but he was also so powerful. If you look at his thighs, they were twice the size of mine, yet he could stop and start faster than anybody. Barry's style is something I try to emulate.

"I also watch guys like Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith. If you look at a lot of the backs around this league now, they're doing what Barry, Walter and Emmitt did. I believe it's very important to study the great ones who set this stage."

Note the Quote

"He's a playmaker. I'm telling you this: I believe he is going to have a really big year."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King on Mark Clayton

Insight: Peter, who has long been considered one of the most reputable and well-connected reporters in the NFL, told me this while visiting our training camp last month. Certainly, this was a profound statement made in early August, one I couldn't help but recall several times last Sunday after Clayton piled up five catches for 77 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Stat of the Week -- Suggs Overvalued?

Several weeks back, a friend of mine who lives in Denver asked me why it was sooo important for us to lock up Terrell Suggs with a lucrative, long-term deal. "The guy only had eight sacks last season," he argued.

Though I could have attacked his case from several angles, I chose to point out a note that was published in ESPN The Magazine's 2009 NFL Preview. Focusing on Suggs, DeMarcus Ware and Dwight Freeney, ESPN's scouts evaluated each player's overall worth by factoring in their "impact plays" from the 2008 season. Without any doubt, when comparing the three standout defenders, it's easy to see the total value that Suggs possesses Sufficient to say, not many players hassle the quarterback, stuff the run and smother the pass like "Sizzle" can:

2008 NFL Season: Suggs / Ware / Freeney Breakdown

Impact Play Suggs Ware Freeney
Touchdowns 2 0 0
Interceptions 2 0 0
Sacks 8 20 10.5
POA Run Block Wins 39 25 19
Passes Tipped 3 0 0

  • A blocker earns a point-of-attack win if he creates a crease for a ballcarrier.

Numbers to Rave About

800

Receptions Derrick Mason will have for his career if he catches six more. This Sunday, "Mase" can become just the eighth active player (and 23rd ever) to reach the lofty milestone. The 800 would complement his 10,108 career receiving yards, which currently stand eighth among active players.

15,195

Combined yards Mason has produced during his 13-year career (5,086 return, 1 rushing and 10,108 receiving). After serving his initial three seasons as a return specialist, Derrick developed into one of the most dependable and durable receivers the game has ever seen. Amazingly, Mason is the only player in NFL history to produce at least 5,000 return yards and 10,000 receiving yards. What a remarkable achievement.

Don't Miss This

In 2005, his rookie year with the Denver Broncos, Domonique Foxworth gave a speech at a Martin Luther King Day celebration. Afterwards, an older gentleman came up to "Fox" and presented him with an original Life magazine from 1968 when Dr. King was assassinated.

"It was unbelievable and really meant a lot," he recently told me. "I liked it so much that I started collecting anything I could find from the civil rights movement."

Fox's "museum" now includes a hand-written letter from Malcolm X, a stock certificate from the Black Star Alliance with Marcus Garvey's signature, an autograph from Rosa Parks, and one of his most prized pieces, a book autographed by Dr. King.

After learning about the inspiring collection, The New York Times decided to write a feature on Fox's unique hobby. Read the insightful story and receive a glimpse of Fox's life away from the football field.

That's it for this edition of Insight to the Limelight. As always, thank you for reading. Until next time…

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