Is Bernard Pierce ready to take over as the Ravens’ featured back during Ray Rice’s two-game suspension? That is a major training camp question, as Pierce looks to rebound from a disappointing 2013. Pierce averaged just 2.9 yards per carry last season, a major drop from his 2012 rookie season when he averaged 4.9 yard per touch.
“It is motivating and it is also humbling coming from the year before,” Pierce said. “Everybody’s intention this year is to climb back up the charts and show we can get this run game started, and (we’re) still the Ravens from 2012.”
Pierce is the favorite to open Week 1 as the starting back, but Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are also competing, and coach John Harbaugh is not ready to anoint Pierce this early in camp.
“He’s gotten better,” Harbaugh said Sunday of Pierce. “How much better remains to be seen. He’s running hard, he had some good runs out there today and a run or two that wasn’t so good. He had a couple really good catches. He had one catch he didn’t make. He had some excellent, really good plays where he stepped up in pass protection. We’re pleased with where he’s at.”
Take one look at Pierce, and you can tell he reported to camp in excellent shape. Pierce said Sunday he weighed 222 pounds, and that he was fully recovered from offseason rotator cuff surgery. How much weight has Pierce lost last since last season?
“After surgery I was embarrassingly 248 (pounds),” Pierce admitted.
Now lighter and quicker, Pierce looks the part of a back ready to produce. Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme fits Pierce’s one-cut running style, similar to what Pierce did in college at Temple, where he ran for 3,570 yards in three seasons.
The first priority for Pierce is to stay healthy throughout training camp and the preseason. If that happens, Pierce feels he can deliver what the Ravens will need when they face the Bengals and Steelers in Weeks 1 and 2 without Rice.
“I just want to show that I’m dependable and that I can be counted on,” Pierce said. “I just need a chance.”