Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
Childs Walker shares the ultimate lessons he learned about the 2013 Ravens after their season-ending loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati.
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4. Ray Rice will face many questions about his future this offseason( Andy Lyons, Getty Images / December 29, 2013 )
No Raven suffered through a more demoralizing season than Rice, a fan favorite and the most productive two-way back in team history.
As he stood on the sideline wearing a winter hat through most of Sunday's first half, it was hard not to wonder about Rice's future.
He ran hard when the coaches put him back in to start the second half. But even then, he could manage just 15 yards on six carries, a fitting epitaph for a sad campaign.
An early-season hip injury was likely the chief culprit in Rice's worst NFL season. Ragged line play didn't help.
He deserves a chance to come back healthy next season and show he can play at his old level.
But the brutal truth is that many NFL running backs never come all the way back from their first debilitating injuries. It's one of the highest-attrition jobs in professional sports.
We may look back at Rice's 2013 -- when his per-carry average was a yard lower and his per-catch average nearly three yards lower than his previous worsts -- as the year when he stopped being Ray Rice.
If that's the case, don't expect the Ravens to keep paying a premium salary to a non-premium player. That's the unsentimental reality of the NFL.
It¿s a harsh line of thinking and for now, premature. But Rice will need to come back strong to chase away such gloomy thoughts.