Will Rice play in preseason finale?

Will Rice play in preseason finale?
August 27, 2014, 11:00 am
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Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to say on Tuesday whether Ray Rice would play in the preseason finale at New Orleans on Thursday night. If Rice does not play, he'll be looking at essentially a month-long layoff from game action, since he did not play against Washington last week and is suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

Harbaugh told the media that the Ravens have made a decision about whether Rice would play but wouldn't share that.

"I really don’t want to get into who is playing and who is not playing, specifically," he said.

Harbaugh did say that starters would not play in the preseason finale, which is standard operating procedure. But Rice's case is different since he will already miss the first two regular-season games.

Rice has had very little game action this preseason, with a total of 11 snaps in two games. He has five carries for 38 yards. He left the Dallas game after just three snaps with a minor shoulder injury, and although healthy, he sat out the Redskins game since the Ravens essentially used that game as a dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener.

Throughout camp, Rice has looked lighter, quicker and more elusive than he did last year, when his rushing total (660 yards) and average gain per carry (3.1) were by far his lowest in five years as a starter.

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On the one hand, playing Rice a series or two against the Saints would give him a few more touches this preseason in live action, so he wouldn't be quite so rusty when he returns for the Ravens Week 3 game at Cleveland.

On the other hand, the Ravens don't want to risk any extensive injury to the running back that, throughout this preseason, has looked much more like the back that put together four straight 1,000-yard seasons before last year. A long-term injury in a Week 4 preseason game to a marquee player would be inexcusable.

The Ravens would seem to have a more to lose than to gain by playing Rice in New Orleans. And there's probably not a running back in the league who wouldn't benefit from fresher legs later in the season. The bet here is Rice sits once again.