- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- You can no longer blame the Baltimore Ravens' struggles in the running game on Ray Rice's hip injury. The Pro Bowl running back declared himself at full strength heading into Sunday's game at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"There is no way you can't call me full strength," Rice said after Friday's practice. "When I had a chance to hit the hole, you've seen what I did and when I ran down Dallas Clark (following Clark's touchdown). When I get a chance to hit it, you'll see I'm at full strength."
Rice injured his hip late in a win over the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 15, but he hasn't been listed on the injury report for the past two weeks. This injury has played a part in Rice's worst start to a season since becoming the team's featured back in 2009. He's on pace to gain 525 yards rushing, which would be the first time he didn't crack 1,000 yards since his rookie season.
In talking to reporters for the first time since last Sunday's loss, Rice said he's no longer frustrated and acknowledged the Ravens may have been "too predictable" in the run game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week that the Ravens will make scheme changes to the run game, but Rice described them as "minor tweaks."
"Without going into too much detail with it, you'll see a lot more of the changes on Sunday in terms of what we're going to do," Rice said. "We're running the same stuff. It just might be out of a different formation or something. We've just got to execute. It's not the play calling. It's just the way we got to execute."
Rice, though, did provide his opinion on the play calling when asked if he's been given enough opportunities to get the ball in games.
"Sometimes we might have been a little too predictable," Rice said. "I think now we've changed it up a little bit and get some things going and spread the ball a little bit. We'll start getting the creases we need to get. We've identified our problems, we're eager to fix them and we got to get ready for Sunday."
One criticism of Rice is his lack of explosion. His longest run this year has been 14 yards.
Rice dismissed the notion that he's been carrying too much weight.
"For me, I've never had a problem with my weight or anything," Rice said. "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. For me, it was just going out there now for this year [and] battling through what I had to get through. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew I was limited. But now that I'm back at full strength, I'm looking forward to making an impact in the pass and run game."
The Steelers traditionally have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, ranking in the top 10 for the past nine seasons. But Pittsburgh ranks 22nd against the run this season, giving up 114.8 yards on the ground per game. The starting running back for opposing teams have gained at least 70 yards in all four of the Steelers' losses this season.
The Ravens are 4-1 against the Steelers since 2009 when Rice gets 18 or more carries. But he's eclipsed that number of rushing attempts just once this season.
Can Rice handle such a workload?
"I've been through a lot of adversity in my life," Rice said. "This is an injury I'm going through. It's not going to faze me. This is the first year I've had to deal with something like this. But I'm back."
3dEric D. Williams
3dEric D. Williams