Rice vows to return as an elite back next season

Rice vows to return as an elite back next season
December 26, 2013, 5:15 pm
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3-and-out: Can Ravens win on the road?

(Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)

Ray Rice has heard the criticism. That he has lost a step. That he will never again be among the NFL’s best running backs.

For now, Rice’s focus remains on helping the Ravens make the playoffs. But he is already thinking about next year, and silencing his critics.

“I’ll make sure I come back in the best shape, bigger, faster, stronger – whatever you want to call it – to prove myself again that I can still be a premier running back in the NFL,” Rice said Thursday.

After avoiding discussing his injuries much of the season, Rice has been more forthcoming in recent weeks, talking about how much he has been hampered. He suffered a hip pointer in Week 2 and missed only one game, but he was clearly not 100 percent after he returned.

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Recently, Rice has been bothered by a thigh injury, and has practiced on a limited basis this week. Averaging a career low 3.1 yards per carry, Rice has just 645 yards rushing and will not reach 1000 yards for the first time since he was a rookie in 2008.

“I played through a lot this year,” Rice said. “Statistically, I put all that stuff aside, but personally, I’m glad I was able to overcome some things. I had to battle this year. “I think I came into the season in great shape. This just happened to be a freak deal.”

Rice will turn 27 years old next month, still young enough to have productive years in front of him. The Ravens hope Rice returns to top form next season. This weekend, the Ravens would settle for Rice helping them make the playoffs.