Rice embraces role as leader

Rice embraces role as leader
April 23, 2013, 11:45 am
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It’s been three years since Ray Rice took part in the Ravens offseason strength and conditioning program, but he’s running and lifting at the Owings Mills facility this year both to prepare for the season and to embrace his role as one of the veteran leaders of the Ravens' revamped roster.

Rice, who met with the media Tuesday morning after a workout, acknowledged that the team needs new leadership after the departure of veterans such as Matt Birk, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and “probably the greatest leader to ever play in a Ravens uniform,” linebacker Ray Lewis.

Now, entering his sixth year and with Lewis and others no longer in the locker room, Rice, 26, said, “I’m comfortable enough to put myself in front of the team and step up and be that leader.”

“I have no problem going to a defensive guy now and just saying, ‘Let’s go. We need your best.’ That’s only what they’re going to expect from me. That’s what brings me here to the offseason program.”

“I’m here,” he added. “I’m going to give my best.”

Rice noted that it’s been three years since he has taken part in an offseason program. There was no such official program two years ago during the NFL lockout, and then Rice missed the team workouts last spring, sitting them out after the Ravens gave him the franchise tag. He returned to the team last July after signing a new five-year deal.

Being back at the Ravens’ Under Armour Performance Center for the offseason work is “a great feeling,” Rice said.

“Last year was about getting back to the New England game. Now you have to figure out how do you get back to the next Super Bowl, which is quite the challenge.”

Rice said that challenge begins now -- with wind sprints, with 300-yard runs, with lifting, with motivation, and with veteran leadership mentoring younger teammates, including the newest who will join the team later this week after the NFL Draft.

“Even though it’s early, you build that camaraderie now,” Rice said. “When it comes time to play football again, things will become special.”