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Ray Rice hoping Ravens 'keep it together,' challenge for Super Bowl repeat

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As much as Ray Rice is savoring the Ravens' Super Bowl victory, the Pro Bowl running back already has set his ambitions on earning another Vince Lombardi trophy.

The New England Patriots were the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions, winning it following the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

"Man, this feels good," Rice said during a telephone interview Thursday from Time Warner Center in New York, where he was making a Valentine's Day appearance for Gillette along with actress Brooklyn Decker. "To get to say you're a Super Bowl champion, for all the personal accolades, it's been a dream career so far.

"We know it won't be easy. It's definitely hard to repeat, but it has been done before. It's as hard as it is, but we truly have a brotherhood in the locker room. That lasts forever. We want to keep it together."

NFL teams, however, rarely, if ever, remain intact,

The Ravens' roster is expected to change through anticipated free agent losses or salary-cap casaulties, especially if the team doesn't hammer out a contract extension with quarterback Joe Flaccobefore the free agent signing period that starts March 12.

A year ago, the Ravens signed Rice to a five-year, $40 million maximum value contract.

"You let the contract stuff take care of itself," Rice said. "Joe is a great quarterback. He has his number, and the Ravens have their number. You get to something you can agree upon and you put it behind you. I've always said you let the business side take care of itself, and that's why you have agents.

"Joe has done everything in his performance to let that take care of itself. I believe he's the best quarterback out there. This was Joe Flacco's time. He led us to the Super Bowl. You always need a great quarterback to take you over the top, and he did that."

Rice is aware of the tenuous roster statuses for key veterans like wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, who carry respective salary-cap figures of $7.531 million and $4.33 million.

Depending on whether Flacco is designated as an exclusive franchise player at a cost of $20 million or a non-exclusive franchise player at a cost of $14.6 million, an extremely tight salary-cap bind could cause the Ravens to lose players they want to retain.

"Man, Anquan's a guy we definitely want back and need back," Rice said. "He's the guy for Joe Flacco. Joe puts it up there and Anquan will come up with it. I don't think you can place a value on that. He's a beast.

"He shows what it is to not be the fastest guy, but he's the most skilled receiver I've ever been around. He has the strongest hands. He's like a running back after the catch. He runs crisp routes. Every week, teams put their best cover guy on him."

Leach is regarded as the most punishing lead blocker in the game.

During the past two seasons with Leach running interference for him, Rice has rushed for a combined 2,507 yards and 21 touchdowns.

"Vonta is another guy whose name has been brought up about clearing out cap space," Rice said. "That's one of those situations you pray about and hope that everything works out and we keep as many guys as we can. One thing about losing a guy on our team, they are Ravens. You go somewhere else and it doesn't feel the same. They're Ravens. We want them to stay."

Last year, Rice trained separately from his teammates after being named the Ravens' franchise player prior to working out a contract extension in July roughly an hour before an NFL deadline.

This year, Rice plans on attending all team activities.

"I can't wait to do everything and to be around this year," Rice said. "I can get so much better now. I get to be around working with [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell, go through his thought process. I look forward to the offseason. I'm a family man, but there comes a time when you miss your teammates and that camaraderie. Like Ray Lewis said, our championship is won in our locker room. This is the closest-knit team I've been on besides high school.

"[Ravens coach John Harbaugh] preaches hard work. That's one thing we do. We're a hard-working team. He pushes us and pushes us, but he knows when to take the foot off the pedal. Teams fail to realize that they have a chance to do it again, but it takes hard work to give us our best shot at doing that."

Rice didn't deal with many injuries during the season and indicated he won't need to undergo any offseason surgeries.

"There's no such thing as feeling good after such a long season, but I don't need any surgeries and I've got no sprains at all," said Rice, who has rushed for 5,520 career yards and 33 touchdowns with 311 receptions for 2,713 yards and six touchdowns. "All I have is regular soreness. This is the healthiest I've been. The only thing I've got is a finger sprain. I took a helmet to my finger.

"I can't complain about anything. My daughter is 1 now and she's walking. She's running the whole household. My mom is in the process of moving into her house in Scarsdale, N.Y. "

Rice says he's looking forward to mentoring running back Bernard Pierce, who gained 532 yards and scored a touchdown as a rookie after being drafted in the third round out of Temple.

"That's the good part, to get to be around each other this offseason," Rice said. "We didn't get to spend a lot of time together last year until into the season. I can teach him some things. I can learn things from him. It can trickle down to a lot of other guys, so we can do a lot of different things."

NOTE: Rice and Decker were part of a Valentine's event described as the "World's Largest Shave & Kiss," where they were celebrating a Gillette promotion involving men getting a clean shave before giving out kisses to their significant others.

"It's all about having that smooth shave," Rice said. "We're hosting this and having some fun with it. I'm working with Gillette's sensitive skin line of products so you don't get those bumps. I shaved myself, so I can have fun on Valentine's Day. My fiancee is taking the train up so we can go out and celebrate."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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