Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice maintained a hefty workload last season for the Ravens with 291 carries for a career-high 1,364 rushing yards and 76 receptions for 704 yards.
As far as running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery is concerned, he sees no reason to reduce Rice's touches, considering that he led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns.
"You don't buy a new car and put it in the driveway and just park it in the garage," Montgomery said. "You buy it, you drive it. If you wear the wheels off, you go out and get another one. So, Ray carrying 300 times, I'm looking for the next Ray Rice after that.
"The game today, you can't save guys. You have to play them, and you ask them to give you whatever they have to give in return and ask for nothing in return. If they can do that, we are on the right track."
Since signing Rice to a $40 million maximum value contract that included a $15 million signing bonus in July, the Ravens have used him sparingly during the preseason to preserve him for games that actually count.
Rice has rushed for only 16 yards on eight carries, catching two passes for 11 yards.
"I'm never really where I want to be because I'm always working on getting better," Rice said following the Ravens' 27-12 loss to the Detroit Lions on Friday night at M&T Bank Stadium. "I know where I'm at, and I know where my role is on this team. I just get in there and try to work on things that I need to work on."
The Ravens are just glad that they avoided a potential holdout situation by signing Rice minutes before the expiration of the NFL's July 16 deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals.
"Ray is a pleasure to be around," Montgomery said. "I haven't seen a person that Ray wouldn't enjoy talking to at anytime. Ray gets along with everyone. He's talking all the time, but just his energy that he brings to the field and the way that he feels about the game, the way he feels about his teammates and the coaching staff, it's kind of fun to have him around.
"Ray's going to come out here and he's going to work his tail off. He's going to work harder than anyone else out here on that field, and it's good to have Ray here because Ray sets the examples for the running backs, how we are going to go out here and practice each day."
Montgomery has seen a change in Rice in terms of accepting the mantle of leadership.
"Ray has really stepped up, and that's what you ask for Ray, you ask him to show that leadership quality," said Montgomery, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back. "Right now, Ray is the guy that has taken charge pretty much of the offense. He stands up in meetings, and talks about when things are going wrong or not going good.
"Ray is the first one to let everyone that we need to step it up, we need to show improvement, we need to work hard each day on this practice or whatever. Ray's a big boy now."
When Montgomery was on the St. Louis Rams' coaching staff, he was the position coach for Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.
Faulk finished his career with 12,279 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns, catching 767 passes for 6,875 yards and 36 touchdowns.
"It's a different kind of game, but I see a lot of things that when I had a guy by the name of Marshall Faulk, there are a lot of similarities," Montgomery said. "With Ray Rice and Marshall able to do things, catching the ball out of the backfield, running, making people miss in traffic, those guys are good. That's not coaching.
"That's just a gift. And they are blessed with that. They got that magic eye somewhere in the back of their heads. They aren't interested in where they've been. They are always interested in where they are going."
Asked if he sees Hall-of-Fame ability in Rice, Montgomery replied: "I don't want to put a jinx on that. I'll just say that as long as Ray keeps working hard and striving to be the best back in the National Football League, he has that potential and those redeeming qualities to be there."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun