Playing time dwindled for Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach this season when the Ravens offense scrapped the I-formation in favor of three-wide receiver sets.
Over the final nine games, Leach averaged just 8.3 snaps per game. He played just a dozen snaps over the final three games.
The Ravens finished 30th in rushing offense, gaining 1,328 rushing yards for the lowest total in franchise history. They finished last in the NFL with an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
"Vonta’s role changed when we moved the offense away from a two-back foundation early on, and the reason we got away from that was because it wasn’t working,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We started off with a two-back foundation, and we couldn’t run the ball well enough to base the offense on the run game. And I think we came to that realization, and we had to move away from it, which took Vonta off the field more.”
During the first five games of the season, Leach played 19 snaps (Denver Broncos), Cleveland Browns (36 snaps), Houston Texans (29 snaps), Buffalo Bills (11 snaps) and 27 snaps in a win over the Miami Dolphins where the Ravens rushed for 133 yards on 40 carries as Ray Rice rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He went back up to 18 snaps against the Chicago Bears during an overtime loss where Rice rushed for a season-high 131 yards.
"I wouldn't say necessarily one thing went wrong," Leach said. "There's times when the running backs and the offensive line weren't on the same page. Other times, it just wasn't working. We have to go back and look at what went wrong."
The Ravens wound up averaging 83 rushing yards per game for the season.
“Vonta’s biggest role this year probably was from a leadership standpoint,” Harbaugh said. “He was a leader, and I would have loved to have him on the field more, but it didn’t play out that way. We planned on him being out there more, but it didn’t play out that way.”
And that leaves Leach likely to move on after signing a two-year, $3.75 million contract last August that included a $1.16 million signing bonus.
"It was very frustrating," Leach said. "At the same time, I was here and ready to go whenever they needed me. It's just a part of the business. When a team changes their scheme and what they do, you just have to roll with it."
Leach said he would like to return, but he isn't inclined to given the same small role.
"If they had a role for me, ideally, I want to be here," Leach said. "I want to be back, but you know I understand this is a business. ...
"It is tough for a fullback. There are still some teams that use a fullback, and I think I can play probably another one or two years."
Leach is due a $1.75 million nonguaranteed base salary in 2014 and has a salary-cap figure of $2.33 million.
Why did the Ravens bring him back?
"It always crosses your mind," he said. "You just got to understand sometimes stuff changes, and you got to roll with the change."