In the midst of his most difficult season, Ravens running back Ray Rice vowed that he'll rededicate himself during the offseason to regaining his form as one of the top all-purpose backs in the league.
During a season in which he battled a strained left hip flexor and now has a quadriceps injury, Rice ranks 26th in the NFL in rushing with 645 yards and is averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per carry.
This is the worst season statistically for the three-time Pro Bowl selection since he became a full-time starter in 2009 and the only one he hasn't rushed for at least 1,000 yards since his rookie season in 2008.
"Man, it's life," said Rice, whose 51 catches have gained 286 yards for a 5.6-yard average per reception. "Statistically, I put all of that stuff aside and, personally, I'm glad I was able to overcome some things. I had a platform NFL career. Even for some of the people to say you lost a step, it's different when you have an injury that controls things that you're normally good at doing.
"Needless to say, I've still got to focus on this year, finishing out this year as strong as I can, and next year will be next year. I'll make sure I'll come back in the best shape, bigger, faster, stronger, to prove myself again that I can still be a premier running back in the NFL."
The 5-foot-8, 212-pounder missed just one game this season with the hip injury, but the injury appeared to rob him of the explosiveness and tackle-breaking ability he'd become known for. In the open field, Rice hasn't been nearly as elusive as in prior seasons.
Except for a season-high 131 yards against the Chicago Bears' shoddy run defense, Rice hasn't eclipsed the century mark all season. Since that Nov. 17 overtime loss, which included a season-long 47-yard run, Rice has rushed for 30, 32, 67, 56 and 40 yards in the ensuing five games.
Rice, 26, is finishing the second year of a five-year, $35 million contract that included a $15 million signing bonus. He's due a $4million base salary in 2014 with an $8.75million salary cap figure.
Given his injuries, Rice said he'll take a hard look at altering his workout regimen.
"I had purely muscular kinds of deals where maybe something to change for me, maybe less muscle and more speed," Rice said. "It might be something I want to change up, but that will be an offseason study for myself. I've always sculpted my body to be ready for the season.
"I wouldn't change anything I've done training-wise. I think I came into the season in great shape. This just happened to be a freak deal and something I probably wasn't used to."
'That's my fault'
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees accepted responsibility for a coverage scheme breakdown during a 34-yard reception for New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola on which he broke a tackle attempt by safety James Ihedigbo.
It led to the Patriots' second touchdown in the 41-7 win over the Ravens.
"I'm not going to take the blame on the missed tackle, but I will take the blame on the actual call," Pees said. "We got kind of a weird formation on a new call that I had put in. There were some communication problems between two guys, and, all of a sudden, [Amendola] is free.
"That's my fault. I've got to do a better job of, if I know the whole thing is going to be hard for them to figure out all the formations, then I can't call it. In that case, that one is on me."
A. Jones sidelined
Defensive end Arthur Jones still has not been medically cleared to play under the NFL concussion protocol and did not practice Thursday.
Jones appears to be coming along well with few remaining symptoms, according to a source.
Rice, wide receiver Torrey Smith (hamstring), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (bruised, sprained ankle) and center Gino Gradkowski (knee) practiced Thursday on a limited basis. Rice and Smith did not practice Tuesday.
"Tuesday was a great rest day and recovery," Rice said. "Coach [John Harbaugh] is doing his best to try and take care of us. For me, having a long year, I needed the rest."
Gradkowski said his knee feels fine and won't be an issue.
The Ravens haven't listed quarterback Joe Flacco (sprained left medial collateral ligament) on the injury report. He continues to wear a protective brace.
Back to basics
Unlike when the Ravens had cornerback Jimmy Smith shadow Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson two games ago, there's no apparent plan to duplicate that coverage scheme against Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green.
Smith is expected to line up at his customary right cornerback spot Sunday opposite left cornerback Lardarius Webb.
"No, I don't think we're shifting around this week," Smith said. "I think we'll just play it straight."
Quiet season for B. Williams
A promising offseason did not translate into a productive season for rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams, a third-round draft pick from Missouri Southern.
Williams missed the first three games with a toe injury and has been a healthy scratch the past five games, which coincides with the emergence of DeAngelo Tyson in the defensive line rotation. Williams has five tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery in six games.
"We've got great guys," Williams said. "Whenever my time comes, I'll definitely capitalize. I'm doing good, I'm feeling great. I think I'm progressing very well."
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck), tight end Jermaine Gresham (hamstring), cornerback Terence Newman (knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (back) did not practice Thursday.
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