Rice the clear choice for Ravens’ team MVP

January 05, 2012 | Luke Jones

Rice the clear choice for Ravens’ team MVP

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The awards continue piling up for the Ravens’ Pro Bowl running back, but Ray Rice took home another on Thursday when he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player by the local media.

After leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,068, Rice earned his second team MVP award in three years. The fourth-year running back was especially potential in the Ravens’ last five games of the regular season, rushing for 642 yards and accumulating 809 yards from scrimmage.

Rice was named to his second Pro Bowl team last week and will start for the AFC on the last Sunday in January unless the Ravens are playing in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis the following week.

“This has been the healthiest I’ve been [and] this is the best I’ve ever felt,” Rice said. “And [coach John Harbaugh] would tell you himself that this year I got after the weight room a little bit harder this year coming into the season, and I’ve having the ability to get stronger during the season.”

The 24-year-old finished second in the league in rushing yards with 1,364, trailing only Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew who collected 1,606 yards on the ground in 2011.

The Baltimore running back’s only real competition for team MVP honors was linebacker Terrell Suggs, who finished with a career-high 14 sacks and has earned Defensive Player of the Year consideration. However, Rice was the clear choice as the most valuable player due to his consistent output every week for a Ravens offense that lacks any other elite players.

Suggs, on the other hand, turned in three three-sack games but was held to five sacks in the Ravens’ other 13 contests. The 29-year-old linebacker was the team’s best defensive player by a sizable margin, but his unit is simply more talented and would still provide some level of competence without his services.

The same cannot be said about the Ravens offense, which depends on Rice for his dynamic play-making ability and would likely be lost without the 5-foot-8 back.

Rice became just the second player to be named a two-time team MVP winner, joining Ed Reed, who won the award in 2004 and 2008. In case you’re wondering about Ray Lewis, the local media did not begin naming a team MVP until 2003. As a result, Lewis has failed to win even one team MVP award, though it’s easy to say he would have been a multiple-time winner had the honor started with the birth of the franchise in 1996.

Boldin back in the swing

Two weeks after undergoing surgery to have his partially-torn meniscus repaired, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was completing his second straight day of practice and appeared close to full health as the Ravens completed their bye-week workouts in Owings Mills.

To everyone’s surprise, Boldin return to the practice field on a limited basis last Friday, provoking the team to upgrade him from “out” to “doubtful” for the team’s Week 17 showdown in Cincinnati. Of course, Boldin didn’t play against the Bengals, but his ability to practice only eight days after the procedure was an encouraging sign.

Boldin finished the season with 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns, but the 31-year-old wideout was held to just 16 catches over his final six games before undergoing the procedure.

“I played with it partially torn all year,” said Boldin, who believes this is the best he’s felt all season. “I just felt like I’d just play until it [tore], and that’s what it did. It tore enough to where it flipped up and my knee started catching. I couldn’t run or anything like that. I felt it necessary to go ahead and get it taken care of.”

If Boldin is showing any lingering effects from the surgery, it’s not apparent with his teammates, who say he hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the practice field. While it was speculated that Boldin may not have been ready to return had the Ravens played in the first round of the playoffs, all indications are the veteran would have been ready to go.

Instead, he’ll have extra time to prepare to make an impact when the Ravens will need him most.

“He looks really good,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I think he’ll provide that spark for us. I’m sure he’d be ready to go if we had to play this week, but I think this bye definitely helps that out.”

Bye week work

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