Running back Ray Rice is experiencing the worst season of his six-year NFL career and acknowledged Wednesday that his early-season hip injury may still be a factor as the Ravens prepare for Sunday’s meeting with the New England Patriots.
After suffering a left hip flexor strain against Cleveland in Week 2, Rice missed his first game since his rookie season but has said several times since that his health was no longer an issue. The 2008 second-round pick is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and has gained 605 yards on 197 carries this season.
Rice did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and was listed as having a thigh injury despite being on the field during the viewing portion of the workout, but he returned on a limited basis on Thursday. He did not appear to be laboring after Monday’s win over the Detroit Lions.
“I’ve been dealing with injuries this year,” Rice said during a conference call with the New England media. “This has been a different year for me. Everybody plays through different things, and my numbers are what they are, but I’m doing what I can do to help my team. The injury I had this year wasn’t something that you just bounce back from and say, ‘Oh, you know I had a hip.’ It is definitely very hard to play through week in and week out. When I look at things like that — statistics — I don’t worry about things [like that]. I’ve proven myself over the years, Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl.”
Rice won’t turn 27 until next month and has three years remaining on a five-year, $35 million contract signed prior to the 2012 season.
It’s clear that Rice won’t be fully healthy again at least until after the season, but he also spoke about his future and how long he plans to play in the NFL. His current contract would expire just before his 30th birthday if the Ravens elected not to move on before then.
“You know it’s always something to think about at the running back position,” Rice said. “I’ll just put it out there — my goal was to make it 10 years in the NFL. Anything after 10, if I can’t do it the way I want to, then it’s something to think about. But, I’m young. I came in the NFL at 21 years old, a young guy, so I’m still young. There’s a lot of football left to be played. With that being said, I have priorities, too. You know I have a young daughter, and you’ve just got to put all that in perspective when you’re going out there week in and week out, especially when you get older in your career.”
It’s unusual to hear a player discuss retirement in such specific terms a few years before the target date, but Rice has been forced to look at the big picture this season in needing to weigh his lack of personal accomplishments against the team’s overall success. His performance this season — which has also been affected by poor offensive line play — doesn’t bode well for the prospects of him being able to play out the duration of his current deal that includes scheduled cap figures of $7.75 million in both 2015 and 2016.
Rice carried 12 times for 56 yards against Detroit, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt in his fourth-highest rushing total of the season.