Ravens star running back Ray Rice characterized his status for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills as a game-time decision, acknowledging there's a chance he plays since his strained left hip flexor has
improved.

One week after not playing during a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans after getting hurt against the Cleveland Browns, Rice practiced every day on a limited basis without setbacks and is officially listed as questionable on the injury report. The team is upbeat about Rice's chances for returning this week, but he made no guarantees.

"Barring setbacks, there's a chance I could be out there on Sunday," Rice said. "I just obviously have to warm up and see how it feels and let coaches make the decision for me."

Until last week, Rice had played in 66 consecutive games and made 43 consecutive starts with the longest active starting streak among NFL running backs.

"Ray's a tough guy, so we'll see," fullback Vonta Leach said.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal on Rice's outlook.

"We stand by the fact that we're hoping he'll get there, he's got a better chance than he had last week," Harbaugh said. "We'll know on Sunday. We've got our fingers crossed."

Although Rice didn't take a full workload at practice, he said he did exert himself to the point where he knows how close he is to his normal capabilities.

"I'm not just a standing monument out there," Rice said. "What I did was push myself to my limit to where I felt it was good enough. The biggest thing with my type of injury is your legs get tired. I was able to sustain a whole level of practice. You know the way we practice around here, we practice very hard."

Against the Browns, Rice went down to the ground without being touched in order to prevent the injury from becoming more serious after he felt pain in his hip.

"When I fell, it was when you feel something there you ain't going to keep it going," Rice said. "If I would have kept going, fingers crossed, Lord knows what it could have been. The fall was a protective measure."

Backup running back Bernard Pierce would start in his place for the second week if Rice is held out. Pierce rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against the Texans.

Should he return Sunday, Rice said he doesn't anticipate a shift in how he and Pierce divide up playing time.

"I don't think anything will change," Rice said. "That's how we split our reps in practice. I always try to play a game like tempo and practice the reps like we're in a game. Me and Bernard switch it up. We try to honestly take care of each other. It's a long year."

Through three games, the running game been stymied as the Ravens rank 25th in rushing offense and are averaging 77.3 rushing yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry.

The Ravens have rushed for 58 yards, 99 yards and 75 yards against the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Texans.

"I think like any team you're a work in progress," Rice said. "We played three good fronts, let's shoot it
straight. Could we execute it better? Yes. Guys are trying to block their behinds off. We just got to find the creases."

awilson@baltsun.com
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