Ray Rice sat next to Ray Lewis in the Ravens locker room for most of the past two years.
Little Ray and Big Ray. They were virtually inseparable.
Now that Big Ray is gone, Little Ray feels it's his time to step into the leadership void.
"I was told growing up, some people are born leaders and some people eventually become leaders," Rice told BaltimoreRavens.com. "I took the role of being a follower here, but I followed the right people. Eventually, you become that leader."
The Ravens have executed a plan in free agency, refusing to overpay for their players and watching many of them move on to other teams. But one aspect of that has been a definite departure of leadership from the locker room.
Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed and Matt Birk – all strong veteran voices – are all gone.
While outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata have said they are ready to step up on the defensive side, quarterback Joe Flacco and Rice will be in the spotlight on offense.
"Joe and I going into Year 6, we're going to be the older guys," Rice said. "I'm excited to take a different road and be a leader. That's what I'm excited to do, actually be around for the offseason, get with the team, be here for OTAs and be here as much as possible. When you're here, you're here. I feel like the only way you get better is when you're around your guys."
Rice was at the Under Armour Performance Center last week to show his face and get in a workout. He chatted and laughed with a handful of teammates that were also in either to work out or rehab injuries.
Rice has done it all in Baltimore already in his short career. He's been voted to three Pro Bowls, put up gaudy statistics and now won a Super Bowl. Now he's ready for the next step.
"I just think where I'm at with this offense, right now, I'm at the pinnacle of my career," Rice said. "Now is the time to be the leader."
So what's that going to look like from Rice, who often plays the role of the jokester in the locker room with a boyish playfulness? He said he's never going to be able to deliver a speech like Lewis could. But he's learned when he needs to say something to resolve a situation and when to lay back.
"You've got to learn when to put your foot in, when to keep your foot out," Rice said.
"Sometimes it's going to be vocal and sometimes it's going to be the rookies coming in just watching Ray Rice. They just have to watch. I'm a workman. They'll see the way I work, and they'll understand these things don't come by accident."