The Ravens questions at running back don't end with Ray Rice and his legal problems.
Bernard Pierce, entering his third season with the Ravens, is coming off offseason shoulder surgery and a subpar second season with the Ravens. The time is now for him to show that he can stay healthy and be a key component in the Ravens running game for the foreseeable future.
In fact, for Pierce, there may be no better time to do so.
Pierce told the Ravens team Web site recently that, coming off the surgery, “I’m definitely ahead of schedule, and I’m definitely going to be ready for training camp."
The Ravens might need that, as Rice is facing the distinct possibility of a suspension to begin the season related to the aggravated assault charge he faces for a confrontation with his wife at an Atlantic City casino in February.
Barring a major acquisition at running back, a suspension of Rice could put Pierce in the starting lineup for at least the first couple of games of the season.
Pierce, like Rice, never got on track last season. Pierce ran 152 times for 436 yards, a 2.9-yard average that was even lower than the Ravens' NFL-worst 3.1-yard overall rushing average. As a rookie, he ran 108 times for 532 yards.
To his credit, Pierce has played through injuries and has not missed a game in two seasons. But at various times last season he was bothered by injuries to his knee, his hamstring, his toe and his shoulder. The notion that he is prone to injuries has followed him since his days at Temple, when he was occasionally slowed by hamstring and concussion issues.
Pierce's offseason surgery should give his shoulder a clean bill of health, and now the Ravens must hope that he can avoid all the other nicks that have hobbled him in the past.
“We’re slowly but surely making progress," he told the Ravens site, "and I’m just excited for the upcoming year."