OWINGS MILLS – The arraignment of Ravens running back Ray Rice on aggravated assault charges is scheduled for Thursday morning in Atlantic City. With Rice facing legal issues, and backup Bernard Pierce recovering from shoulder surgery, the Ravens have no choice but to target running backs in the upcoming draft.
According to police, Rice and Janay Palmer, who were married in March, were involved in a physical altercation Feb. 15 in an Atlantic City casino. Even before that incident, Rice was coming off a subpar season, averaging 3.1 yards per carry. That triggered the Ravens’ desire to add a running back this offseason.
The Ravens have stated numerous times that Rice remained in their plans for next season. But even if Rice escapes conviction or jail time, he could face an early-season suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Asked Wednesday how Rice’s legal situation would impact the Ravens’ draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome said, “I can say No. 1, we’ll deal with Ray when that time comes."
Then Newsome added that acquiring a running back had been a priority since early this offseason, when Newsome met with coach John Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti in Florida to discuss the state of the Ravens. Veteran running back Justin Forsett, signed this offseason, is viewed as a backup rather than a starter.
“In talking with John, all the way back when we went to Jupiter and spent time with Steve, we’ve been talking about adding one, maybe two, running backs to our team,” Newsome said. “This was before the incident that happened up in Atlantic City. We feel like we needed to add some depth at that position coming out of the 2013 season. Even in free agency, we’ve been in on some backs. We haven’t been able to actually get one yet, but we’ve been in on some pretty good backs.”
No running backs are expected to be drafted in the first round, but running backs that could be on the Ravens' radar for later in the draft include Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, Carlos Hyde of Ohio St., Bishop Sankey of Washington, and Terrance West of Towson.