Extra weight hurt Ray Rice's elusiveness

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
10:00
AM ET
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice bristled at questions about his weight during the season.

But numbers -- as well as the Ravens' owner -- don't lie.

"I think he learned that adding 10 pounds to his frame made him less elusive, not more powerful," owner Steve Bisciotti told The Baltimore Sun. "I think he'll come back with a vengeance, down to 210, than the 217 or wherever he is now. And if he doesn't, then we'll be making a tough decision next year, probably."

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesRay Rice has one more season to prove to the Ravens that he can be an effective back.
Translation: Rice gets a pass this year but the Ravens may have to rethink paying him $3 million in 2015 if he has another disappointing season.

Bisciotti did point out that he's more frustrated with the offensive line. And, for anyone who watched one Ravens game this season, you know it would've been difficult for Barry Sanders to generate yards behind the Ravens' blockers in 2013. The line routinely got pushed back in drive blocking and continually left a defender unblocked on the zone stretch plays.

That being said, Rice was not the playmaking running back that the Ravens gave a five-year, $35 million contract before the 2012 season.

How bad was Rice's lack of elusiveness? Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had as many 20-yard runs as Rice did this season. Each had one.

Rice was one of four running backs in the NFL this season to carry the ball more than 200 times and fail to get more than one 20-yard run. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Fred Jackson and Rashard Mendenhall were the others.

Rice's average of 1.1 yards after contact was the worst in the NFL.

"With Ray, I'd be lying if I said that question hasn't come up about him being through," Bisciotti said. "But I've already talked about failure and repeating failure. I have no interest in being without Ray Rice. My coaches don't want to be without Ray."
It's easy to justify Rice's stats in the running game by how the offensive line played this season. The disturbing part was how Rice failed to make plays when catching the ball in space. He averaged 5.5 yards per reception, which was the worst of his career by an average of two yards.

Since that memorable "Hey Diddle Diddle Ray Rice Up the Middle" moment -- when Rice converted fourth down-and-29 in San Diego with a 29-yard catch and run, he has had three catches over 20 yards. That's over a span of 24 games.

In October, Rice said his struggles were the result of a hip injury, not extra pounds.

"For me, I've never had a problem with my weight or anything," Rice said at the time. "I come into the season at a certain weight. Actually, I do my best to keep it on. It hasn't been a problem with me in terms of my conditioning and everything else."

Ravens officials have publicly supported Rice. A week after coach John Harbaugh gave his vote of confidence, general manager Ozzie Newsome did the same Wednesday after meeting with Rice.

"I think Ray is committed to being as good a football player as he has been," Newsome said. "We had great dialogue [Tuesday] on what we think we can do to help Ray to get there. But that combination of us having an understanding and a willingness to provide some help to him, and him having a willingness to work his butt off, we will again have a Pro Bowl running back in Ray Rice next year. But I can say that, and in Game 2, [maybe there’s] an ACL [injury]. I can’t handle that; nobody can [control] that aspect of it.”

Harbaugh then pounded the table in front of them, "Knock on wood, Ozzie. I want to mitigate that a little bit."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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