John Harbaugh Explains Sidelining Bernard Pierce

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Head Coach John Harbaugh took a knee and talked quietly with running back Bernard Pierce in front of his locker as reporters filed into the Ravens' locker room following Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Bengals.

The two spoke briefly after Pierce's disappointing season opener, where he fumbled in the second quarter and spent the rest of the game on the sideline.

"He just said, 'Being a running back in this league, if you're trying to stay in this league, you can't fumble the ball,'" Pierce said about his conversation with Harbaugh. "And I agree with him 100 percent."

Ball control has been a point of emphasis throughout the offseason, and Harbaugh decided to give veteran Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro the rest of the snaps after Pierce's gaffe.

A reporter asked Harbaugh why Pierce didn't get back in the game, and whether the third-year running back was injured.

"No, it wasn't a health decision," Harbaugh explained. "He's fine. He's healthy. I guess you can extrapolate from there."

After a brief pause, Harbaugh added: "We're not too enamored with fumbles. It's not what we're looking for from our running backs."

"We're not too enamored with fumbles," Harbaugh said. "It's not what we're looking for from our running backs."

Pierce coughed up the football on a run up the middle where Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict ripped the ball away as he was making the tackle. Pierce was close to being down, but Burfict dislodged the football just ahead of the tackle.

"I kind of got airborne and the ball just kind of slipped away from me," Pierce said. "He grabbed my arm and just pulled it out."

The performance was particularly disappointing for Pierce, as the third-year running back came into the game as the starter because of Ray Rice's two-game suspension. The game was a bit of an audition for Pierce, who could show he's ready to take on a bigger workload even when Rice returns.

Pierce finished with six carries for 14 yards.

With Pierce sidelined, Forsett capitalized on his opportunity for more playing time. The seven-year veteran had 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and he helped jump-start the running game in the second half.

"I was ready all week," Forsett said. "You never know what happens in this league. I've been around a long time. When opportunities come, you just have to be ready."

Forsett signed with the Ravens this offseason after a broken foot landed him on injured reserve last year in Jacksonville. The game against the Bengals was a chance for him to show he's deserving of a roster spot even when Rice.

"I came out with a lot of passion and a lot of energy and tried to be a spark," Forsett said. "I hope I [seized this opportunity], but you never know. You have to string things together in this league. Anybody can have one good game. You have to string things together and try to get better next week."

It's up in the air whether the Ravens will go into Thursday's matchup against the Steelers with Pierce or Forsett as the top back. Pierce said he has "no idea" when asked if he will play against Pittsburgh.

Several of Pierce's teammates came to Pierce's defense, and expressed confidence in the third-year back.

"I'm sure he's pretty down on himself, but he'll get it corrected," left guard Kelechi Osemele said. "He'll do whatever he has to do to get that fixed."

Pierce also stressed that Sunday's game hasn't shaken his confidence and that he'll "of course" be ready to take on a big workload Thursday if the coaches ask that of him.

"This game is done," Pierce said. "It's shaken off. On to next week."

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