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Spotlight on: Ray Rice


Spotlight on: Ray Rice

The Ravens and Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice have until July 16 (next Monday) at 4 p.m. to agree on a new contract. If they cant find common ground, Rice will play under the franchise-tag designation in 2012, earning 7.7 million, then take another swing at landing a big deal in 2013.

His contract situation has kept him in the headlines throughout the offseason and stirred plenty of conversation; he skipped the teams entire offseason program, including all OTAs and minicamps, and might also skip part of training camp, which begins later this month. Such moves are within his rights as part of the mechanics of the franchise tag.

But there is little doubt Rice will eventually sign his one-year tender, rejoin his teammates and play for the Ravens in 2012. As he said last December, even his one-year salary is lot more than I ever had, and he isnt about to give that up, no matter how frosty the negotiations turn.

When he does finally hit the field, the Ravens would gladly take a reprise of his 2011 season, in which he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and scored a career-high 14 touchdowns, showing a knack for delivering big plays when they were most needed. Rice was the centerpiece of the offense, carrying the team on many Sundays, his contributions especially vital given the up-and-down nature of the teams passing game.

Rice would obviously also take a reprise of his 2011 performance, which earned him a second trip to the Pro Bowl. If one season of performing at that level doesnt land him the big deal he wants, maybe two seasons will.

But of course, in the wake of his unusual offseason, there are questions.

Even though he has worked out madly on his own, will his conditioning suffer because he sat out the teams offseason program?

Will he be rusty when he returns, having not taken a handoff from Joe Flacco since January?

Even if the answer to both of those questions is no, will he be able to replicate his 2011 season with teams keying on him more than ever?

From the outset of this offseason, the Ravens have expressed little concern about Rice, believing he is a pros pro who will be ready no matter what happens off the field. A recent video of him carrying beer kegs up some high school stadium steps certainly seemed to indicate that he was focused and would be ready to go.

The Ravens have plenty of questions about plenty of players heading into 2012, and Rice is not excused from that exercise. But in his case, even after this strangest of offseasons, the team feels it has a pretty good handle on the answers to those questions.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."


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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice


Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”