PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
When defensive end Trevor Pryce went out to run with his teammates on his first day of voluntary workouts Monday, he checked the chart to see which group he was in: the big guys, the medium guys or the small guys. The smaller the player, the quicker the time they are expected to post.
You would expect Pryce to be with the big guys because he stands at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds. Oh, and he's 34 years old.
Well, not so fast. Pryce was running the 100-yard dash with the medium guys – and he even beat some of them.
"If I'm 295 pounds and quote the "old guy," why am I running faster times than guys smaller than me and younger than me?" Pryce said Tuesday.
The point is that no matter how "veteran" Pryce is he's still capable of playing at a high level. And the Ravens defensive line, which has lost defensive end Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan to free agency this offseason, is going to need that high level in 2010.
"I could play this game as long as I want to," said Pryce, who added that he can still run a sub 4.7 40-yard dash. "Physically, I can. Psychologically, I can't."
"Your age really has nothing to do with it. Some people are just genetically built like that and I'm one of them. … You're not going to find a lot of guys my size – no matter how old they are – running what I run."
Pryce is coming off one of his best seasons as a Raven. He played in every game, notching 31 tackles and a team-high 6.5 sacks, both of which are personal bests since he came Baltimore in 2006, when Pryce logged 47 tackles and 13 sacks.
But for the first time since his rookie season in 1997, Pryce wasn't the official starter every Sunday. He started the Ravens' first five games and then Edwards moved ahead of Pryce on the depth chart midway through the season.
Pryce doesn't give a hoot about the depth chart. He said he played far more snaps the second half of the season compared to when he was the quote "starter" early on.
How much he plays, or whether he starts, is determined by the opposing offense, not the Ravens defense, Pryce said. The Ravens played several pass-happy teams (Colts, Steelers, Packers, Steelers) in the second half so Pryce, who is a gifted pass-rusher, saw more time.
"I was still the starter last year," Pryce said. "A starter on this team is a misnomer. "On this defense all of us have to play."
The fight Pryce endures at this stage of his career is in his mind. He said he's in great psychological shape now, but by the time December rolls around it's tough for him not to fade a bit.
"It just wears you down mentally," Pryce said. "When your brain goes everything else goes. When your mind stops pushing out effort, your body, even though it can move and do all the right things, will slow down."
Pryce is hoping that his presence at the voluntary workouts will help with his mental adjustment this season.
He is in Owings Mills early for the first time as a Raven and said he wishes he had done it earlier on in his career. Pryce believes participation will better prepare him for what to expect when Organized Team Activities roll around later this Spring and Summer.
Pryce also felt it was important for the younger players to see him in the facility after the Ravens lost two respected veteran defensive figures in Edwards and Bannan.
Pryce will be joined by newly-signed Cory Redding, a defensive tackle touted by Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh to play similarly to Edwards, but the 14th-year veteran will be once again be a major figure on the line next season.
"Leading by example is what I've always tried to do," Pryce said. "I'm not a person who curses or carries on. If you do the right thing hopefully everybody does the right thing."