Notebook: Ravens’ Ray Rice emulates Jones-Drew

Street Talk Notebook: Ravens’ Ray Rice emulates Jones-Drew

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WESTMINSTER — The versatility and stature of all-purpose Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew haven’t escaped Ray Rice’s notice. Now, the Baltimore Ravens’ stocky rookie is hoping to duplicate Jones-Drew’s rich NFL success.
In two seasons, Jones-Drew has emerged as a game-breaker. The 5-foot-7, 208-pounder’s impact has included 1,709 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, 86 receptions and two kickoff returns for scores.
"I idolize Maurice Jones-Drew, just what kind of back he is," said Rice, who’s listed at 5-8, 205 pounds. "It’s just special to see a guy that size. Size doesn’t matter. It’s all a bunch of hype.
"I do have some similar attributes. I definitely think I’m good. It just comes down to, ‘Can you make plays?’ He’s a playmaker. When I put myself in position to make a play, that’s when we would be compared."

Rice is Rutgers’ all-time leading rusher with 4,296 yards and 49 t ouchdowns. The second-team All-American finished third in the nation with 2,012 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns last season.

The Ravens drafted him in the second round and gave him a four-year contract that included a $1.1 million signing bonus.

Projected as Willis McGahee’s primary backup, the Ravens are auditioning him on kickoff returns and punt returns. He hasn’t returned punts since high school.

"Ray Rice has done a great job fielding punts," coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s got good hands, and it seems like he’s got a knack for it."

This transition reminds Rice of when he was a freshman and backed up Brian Leonard before eventually becoming the featured back.

"You just have to come in with a beginner’s mentality," he said. "That’s how you become a better runner. I’m not sure I’ll know everything inside-out, but the things I need to know, I’ll know this year."

One thing Rice will never forget is the example of his mother, Janet Rice, a special-education teacher in New Rochelle, N.Y.

"My mom has been a role model for me all my life," he said. "She’s been my biggest fan, my No. 1 supporter. I’m a family-oriented guy. Go moms!"

SEEKING DEPTH: Tight end Aaron Walker is intent on his bid to make the team after being signed Sunday. Regarded as a strong blocker, he has 25 catches in five seasons. The Ravens have had a lot of injuries at tight end, opening the door for a possible roster spot.
"When you have injuries, there’s always a chance for you to impress, so it’s definitely an opportunity," Walker said. "The strength of my game is probably at the line of scrimmage, blocking.

"The things I’ve got to work on are probably route-running and getting down the field a little bit. I’m fortunate to have Todd Heap here to learn from.”
Harbaugh said that Walker is working his way into shape and will draw strong consideration for a roster spot.
"He has a chance to make our team," Harbaugh said.
Meanwhile, recently-signed tight end Adam Bergen wasn’t at practice for undisclosed reasons.

NO TO FAVRE: The Ravens were recently contacted by the Green Bay Packers regarding a potential trade for quarterback Brett Favre. However, the Ravens informed the Packers that they aren’t interested. The Packers’ compensation offer was reportedly a third-round draft pick and a player, but it was a short conversation: No thanks.

ROSTER MOVE: The Ravens signed former Penn State defensive back Anwar Phillips.
QUOTABLE: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after a botched play: "We’re going to be here all morning until we get this right."
NICE CATCH: Wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright, an imposing 6-foot-5, 215-pound undrafted free agent, had an acrobatic sideline catch on an off-target Troy Smith pass.

QUICK HITS: Outside linebacker Dan Cody has dominated pass-rush drills, drawing praise from coaching intern Chuck Smith. A former Atlanta Falcons defensive end, Smith isn’t the only former NFL starter helping out in camp, including former Ravens lineman Larry Webster and former linebacker Brad Jackson and retired offensive tackle Roman Oben. … Running back Allen Patrick drew laughter when he accidentally banged into a set of trash cans during a blocking drill when his right shoulder slipped off the padded goalpost, tumbling to the ground. "I think it’s scared of me now," Patrick said. … Harbaugh fell down while backpedaling at cornerback. "What’s that machine called when you fall and you can’t get back up right away? Lifeline?" he said. "Well, I needed one of those today." … Harbaugh was pumped about his first full-team meeting at camp Wednesday night. "I have been preparing the message for the first training camp as head coach," he said. "It’s going to be fun to deliver." … Seventh-round wide receiver Justin Harper’s three-year contract included a signing bonus of nearly $44,000. … The Ravens practiced outdoors in the afternoon following a rainstorm. … Tight end Todd Heap reported to camp at 10 p.m. Tuesday night and ran on his own Wednesday at practice.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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