Although the legal issue involving running back Ray Rice remains unresolved, general manager Ozzie Newsome said that off-field situation won't impact the Ravens' draft strategy.

Rice has an arraignment conference on his felony aggravated assault case scheduled for Thursday morning in Atlantic County Superior Court before Judge Michael Donio.

"We'll deal with Ray when that time comes," Newsome said today during a predraft news conference at the Ravens' training complex.

Beyond the legal ramifications of the case, Rice could be facing a potential suspension from the NFL, which is monitoring developments under the league's personal-conduct policy.

The third-degree aggravated assault case stems from the three-time Pro Bowl running back's domestic violence arrest on Feb. 15 where he and his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, whom he has since married, were both arrested following a physical altercation at Revel Casino and charged with simple assault-domestic violence. Following a review by prosecutors, a grand jury indicted Rice on a more serious charge with Palmer's case administratively dismissed.

Newsome indicated that the Ravens had planned to bolster the running back position with one or two running backs even prior to Rice's legal problems. The Ravens finished 30th in the NFL in rushing last season with a franchise-worst 1,328 yards as Rice gained just 660 rushing yards for his lowest total since becoming a regular starter.

Plus, backup running back Bernard Pierce is recuperating from rotator cuff surgery in January and isn't expected to be ready until training camp.

"We feel like we needed to add some depth anyway at that position coming out of the 2013 season," Newsome said.

The Ravens met with several running backs at the NFL scouting combine, including Towson running back Terrance West, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, Boston College running back Andre Williams and Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey.

"What he did in the postseason was fun to watch," Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said of West, a Baltimore native who rushed for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season and owns the school record with 86 career touchdowns and finished 4,535 rushing yards. Really productive player who knows how to find the end zone."

awilson@baltsun.com

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