Rice Looking for Separation


Perhaps lost amid the hoopla surrounding Joe Flacco during the Ravens' full-team minicamp last weekend was the arrival of Ray Rice.

During the three-day session, all eyes were trained on the 6-foot-6 Flacco and his storied cannon of a right arm, while one almost had to search out the diminutive Rice as his 5-foot-8, 200-pound frame was a blur around the football field.

While the sight of what general manager Ozzie Newsome called "the quarterback of the future" caused breathless speculation and examination, the second-round pick out of Rutgers could be just as big a part of the Ravens' offense as Flacco in years to come.

"We like the way he runs," Newsome said of Rice on draft day. "He has a very low center of gravity, so he doesn't take a lot of hits. He mainly delivers a blow instead of taking a blow. So could he play a 16-game season? I think he can and be a guy that you'd be very, very happy with."

Rice lined up in a crowded backfield looking to put separation between himself, P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross as the top sub for 2007 Pro Bowler Willis McGahee. If speed and cutting ability were the determining factors, Rice would have made a solid case.

But even he knows that the competition is about more than physical ability. He also must master Cam Cameron's complex offense and acclimate himself to the increased speed of the NFL.

"Everything moves so fast," Rice admitted after Saturday's practice. "Without pads, you see how fast the defense is moving and how fast the game is that you have to learn. I'm just looking forward to learning quickly and getting into the meeting room and paying attention, and I'll try to do the best that I can."

Waiting in the wings is something Rice is familiar with. When he came to Rutgers in 2005, he learned under current St. Louis Ram Brian Leonard for a prolific Scarlet Knights offense. Even in limited duty, Rice racked up 1,120 yards as a freshman.

Two years later as the sole ball-carrier, Rice closed his college career with a whopping 2,012 yards (a Big East and school record) and 24 rushing touchdowns on 380 attempts.

Such proven production could bring a double-pronged backfield to Baltimore, something that Cameron used to devastating effects with LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner in San Diego.

"Being the No. 2 guy, I can be used in many different ways," said Rice. "The way I see it, it's not really one back that takes the load anymore in the NFL. That's why I'm very excited. When I get my chances, I'm going to be fresh."

Even though Rice has only played with McGahee for five total practices, the rookie shares the ideal of a tandem backfield.

"It's like a dream come true, to have a guy like that in front of you," Rice explained. "I'm definitely learning from him and watching the things that he does, from his footwork to how he carries himself. I try to look at him as a role model."

Because the veterans have been working with Cameron basically since the offseason conditioning program began in late March, Rice knows he is at a disadvantage to Ross and Daniels.

The Ravens shipped Rice his playbook once he was selected on draft weekend.

"They sent it to me right after the draft, but it's nothing like going into a meeting room and actually going over it with the coaches," he said. "You look at it, and you can glance and try to study it, but the way they teach it is totally different."

Rice thinks next week's rookie camp will be a big step into learning the offense. With only seventh-round draft choice Allen Patrick to split carries with, he'll be the focus in the backfield - at least along with Flacco.

Then again, Rice might want to get used to that.

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