Ray Rice had company as he stepped onto the practice field Wednesday at the Under Armour Performance Center. He had the same company when he stepped off the field after practice, too.
Walking alongside Rice was his backfield chauffeur, Vonta Leach, back in a Ravens uniform.
After a seven-week hiatus from the team following his release, Leach and the Ravens agreed to a two-year deal Monday. Wednesday marked Leach's first practice since rejoining the team.
Leach was right back to where he usually is — next to Rice.
"It's like I never left," Leach said after practice.
When the Ravens terminated Leach's contract June 11, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said that the organization would remain in contact with the fullback and could bring him back later in the offseason or during training camp. A reunion appeared unlikely when Leach visited the Miami Dolphins less than 48 hours after he was let go by the Ravens.
Leach called it a frustrating process but said he has no hard feelings.
"I've been cut, I've been released probably five or six times in my career, so I've seen it all, done it all," Leach said. "It's just part of the business and unfortunately I know first hand.
"I'm just happy to be back, and whatever I got to do, in whatever role I have on this team this year, I'll be ready for it."
The return of the three-time Pro Bowl fullback to the backfield means a role reduction for rookie Kyle Juszczyk. Juszczyk said he still expects to be on the field Sundays.
"I felt like Vonta coming back is good for this team," Juszczyk said. "Vonta is a great player, he's a great blocker and he's going to help this running game a lot. For myself, he's somebody I can learn from and as far as having two fullbacks, we're two different players and we can find roles for both us."
Juszczyk is a more mobile, pass-catching fullback, while Leach is considered one of the top lead blockers in the NFL.
Leach had 21 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown to go along with 36 catches for 212 yards last season. However, his primary role was to pave a running lane for Rice, who rushed for 2,507 yards and had 25 total touchdowns with Leach leading the way the past two seasons.
Leach followed Rice during agility drills and took snaps with the first-team offense during 11-on-11 scrimmaging Wednesday.
"Anybody that watches football knows what Vonta brings to the offense," Harbaugh said Monday. "I'm excited about it. It's great news. We've been in contact, and Ozzie [Newsome] and [Leach] have been talking all along. It worked out great for the Ravens. It's good news."
Rice was unaware Leach was at the team facilities Monday. Leach says Rice was in the ice tub when he walked in and informed him he was once again a Raven. The excitement level in Rice's reaction — an indicator of their chemistry— was an example of what Leach missed the most during his brief time as a free agent: camaraderie.
"Not being around so many guys that you fought with, that you work out with every day, that you laugh with, that was probably the hardest thing," Leach said. "Just being able to be with them and talk with them and get back in that locker room, that's a special place."
Leach and Rice chatted with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery before agility drills, as receiver Jacoby Jones taunted the fullback a field over. It was like old times for Leach. And then agility drills started. Leach's legs became entangled with the netting, which ripped apart from the apparatus, eliciting a thorough chiding from Rice.
"I don't have to play a game tomorrow," Leach said. "The offense hasn't changed. Give me a week's time and I think I'll be right back where I left off at."
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