Daily Archives: August 3, 2012

The Ray Rice interview

Ray

My photo of Ray Rice on Friday at the Baltimore Ravens’ practice.

 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Those who think running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL should listen to Ray Rice.

In a sitdown interview with QMI Agency on Friday, the Baltimore Raven explained why it’s no coincidence he’s one of the game’s premier backs.

“I’m not taking away from the guys who line up every day and go between the tackles and do their thing,” Rice told me at the Ravens’ headquarters and practice facility, “but I just think there’s more to the game now.

“If you’re a running back and you can’t catch as well as you run, you’re going to find yourself weeded out pretty quickly.”

Rice is the ultimate dual threat in that regard.

He led the Ravens in receptions last season, with 76 for 704 yards. Combined with his 1,364 rushing yards, Rice led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,068.

He and Marshal Faulk are the only players in NFL history with multiple seasons of 1,000 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving.

“As running backs, we’ve got to evolve with the changes,” he said. “It used to be, ‘We gotta give it to a guy 20, 25 times to win the game.’ Some guys still think that. But I think when talent is changing — guys that can run faster, jump higher — you’ve got to change. As long as you can evolve with the change, then you’ll sustain yourself in the league.”

RayRice laughed when asked if he thought that way in high school, where he grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., or in college, where he starred at Rutgers in New Jersey.

“No! That’s why I’m trying to school (young running backs) now.

“There’s going to be games when you’re going to need to carry it a lot, don’t get me wrong. But if you think you can take 25 carries week in and week out, try it. You’ll be done in three years.

“In the NFL, you’re talking about grown men now. You’re not dealing with little kids anymore. You’re dealing with people who have mastered the game of football, just like you can master the game of chess. And the jump from college to pros is even greater than high school to college.”

Let’s be clear, though. Rice — who is heading into his fifth year in the league — can pound it with the best of them when necessary. He’s built for that too, standing only 5-foot-8 and weighing 208 pounds during the season, he said.
He’s only 25 years old, and has been to two Pro Bowls.

Just two weeks ago, the Ravens rewarded Rice with a five-year, $40-milllion contract, with $24 million of it guaranteed.

He says the best part of that isn’t the money because, as he points out, if the Ravens had just kept franchise-tagging him, he’d get good money.

Rather, it’s that he’s — well, a homebody. He was born and raised in one city, and the prospect of having to become a nomad of sorts in free agency upset him.

“I’m not real good with moving around. I was more frustrated with the franchise tag because I was only guaranteed to be here for one year.

“You want a blanket of security to know where you’re going to be for the next few years in your life … But now to be here — one team, one organization the rest of my career? That’d be great.”

The Ravens have reached the playoffs every year with Rice. The team is coming off back-to-back 12-4 seasons, and was an agonizing missed field goal at New England away from reaching the Super Bowl.

The goal this year? Simple.

“If you don’t come into the season and say the No. 1 priority on your list is to win the Super Bowl, then quite frankly you’re not even going to contend,” he said.

“The playoffs? We expect to be there. We’ve been there. But getting to the Super Bowl and winning it is the ultimate goal. And that should be the goal of all 32 teams — to win the Super Bowl. To win MULTIPLE Super Bowls.”

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RAY AND RAY

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Every day, Ray Lewis and Ray Rice walk out onto the practice field together, side by side.

Lewis — the 17-year veteran linebacker extraordinaire — means that much to Rice.

Rays“That’s my big bro, mentor, father figure — he’s everything in one,” Rice told me Friday, before the Baltimore Ravens’ afternoon practice.

“My locker is here, his is there. I need to pick his brain? I go right there.

When you have that kind of wisdom by your side, you’ve got to try to be a sponge every time he says something. I don’t care if it’s a joke, I try to copy that joke — and tell it later on down the line.”

Lewis turned heads on the Ravens when he showed up at camp slimmer. Rice said Lewis is down to 240 pounds, from 250-255.

“People who think that’s going to take away from his physicality? Yeah, try him. That man is strong.

“He’s reached that plateau. He has what you call ‘grown-man strength.’ Shake his hand and you’ll understand.”

We’ll take your word for it, Ray.

RG3 just needs time + Shanny on Bills DL

RG3

My photo of RG3 at training camp Thursday at Redskins Park.

ASHBURN, Va. — For the Washington Redskins, RG3 must be more than the franchise — if only because they gave up the proverbial franchise to get him.

As the Redskins premier wideout Santana Moss put it to me after Thursday afternoon’s training-camp practice, “You don’t often get Michael Vick and Cam Newton all balled up in one.”

But The Franchise — aka Robert Griffin III, aka RG3 — had a tough go of it Thursday at Redskins Park.

Griffin threw two interceptions (even if one was receiver Brandon Banks’ fault, who appeared to miss RG3 checking into a different play).

But more than that, RG3 seemed to struggle to make swift decisions in the pocket, and seemed to run into a tackler whenever he took off to run.

Everybody knew Griffin was going to have days like this in training camp. His coach and teammates had his back afterward.

“Ya know, quarterbacks do throw interceptions in the National Football League,” head coach Mike Shanahan told reporters. “Even the great ones do. That’s part of practice. You’re going to test yourself.

“But it’s very competitive out here. We’re trying to put players in situations that are game-like. We’re trying to put Robert in as many game-type situations as possible.”

His first real one is next Thursday night against the Bills in Buffalo, the pre-season opener for both clubs.

RG3 only is talking to the press only on a handful of days at training camp, and Thursday wasn’t one of them. Shanahan is talking, though, and he told QMI Agency in an interview that it’s all just a matter of time before Griffin gets it.

RG3“He’s a smart kid,” Shanahan said. “He’s got common sense. Everybody can see his ability … He’s going to get it.

“We didn’t give up two No. 1s and a No. 2 if we didn’t think the world of him, both on and off the football field.”

What a lot of NFL observers are anxious to see, in addition to his rocket arm and renowned accuracy, is how much Griffin is allowed to run at this level. Is it safe to let him?

“Take a look at what Robert did in college,” Shanahan told me. “I mean, he ran over 600 times and protected himself pretty well. But this is the National Football League. These guys are fast. And if you don’t slide or run out of bounds, you’re going to pay the price.

“He knew how valuable he was to (Baylor), so he protected himself a lot. And sometimes in a big game he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to muster it up, and I’ve got to go get a first down.’ That’s what you want out of a competitive guy. Elway was the same way. And Steve Young. They knew the times they needed a first down. And the great ones do.”

Washington’s top wide receivers — Moss, Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson — all told me Thursday how impressed they are with Griffin’s poise, leadership and, of course, his arm.

Santana“The one thing I won’t do is cheat him his time to be a rookie,” Moss said. (right)

“We are going to expect a lot out of him because he’s our guy, and he’s who we’re counting on.

“But with that comes a growing period, and he’s going to have to grow up.

And we’re going to have be able to take those bruises and lumps with him.”
Like Thursday’s?

“Exactly. And it’s going to be like that, and we understand that.

“The only thing he’s going to have to get over right now is being a rookie — the speed of the game, and the whole (pass) pressure and everything. It’s a whole different ball game. Once he catches that, then all the other stuff is going to come to him.”

On Thursday night, Griffin was to get his turn performing a rookie-initiation skit in front of his teammates. He said the other day he probably was going to sing the old Motown hit, My Girl.

There’s a lyric in that song that goes, “I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim.”

True enough with RG3. But at the NFL level, his riches just need time to mature.

RG3

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DOES BILLS VAUNTED D-LINE SCARE SHANAHAN? NOPE

ASHBURN, Va. — We asked Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan if the Buffalo Bills’ new deep, talented defensive line would have any impact on how long he plays RG3 next Thursday.
“How good are they?” he asked me in return Thursday at his post-practice news conference at Redskins Park.
“They think pretty good,” I replied.
“Well,” Shanahan cracked, “we might not play him then.”
Joking aside, Shanahan said playing in the NFC East exposes the Redskins to “year in and year out the best defensive fronts” in the NFL.
So, no — no impact.
Asked by another reporter specifically how long Robert Griffin III would play in each team’s exhibition opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium outside Buffalo, Shanahan said probably the same as he always plays his starting QB in Pre-season Game No. 1 — 12 to 20 snaps.

Shanahan