The status of the contract negotiations between the Ravens and Ray Rice will loom over the offseason and that will remain true whether the Pro Bowl running back shows up at organized team activities later this month or opts to stay home until a deal is done.
Rice told reporters Tuesdayin New York at Nike’s official uniform unveiling, he still hasn’t decided what he is going to do as he waits to see if negotiations with the Ravens result in a long-term contract extension or him playing the 2012 season under the franchise tag.
“Me and my agent (Todd France) have been going over things and what we’re going to do is figure out what’s best for us going forward,” Rice told the Ravens’ website. “We haven’t made a decision. As far as we know, we look forward to being at [offseason workouts]. Maybe it will be under some terms, whether I sign the tag or not. But I want to be there. I like to be around my guys.”
Rice’s comments came just four days after he declined to address his contract situation with The Sun while playing at teammate Torrey Smith’s charity basketball game at Stafford High School in Fredericksburg, Va.
Rice, 25, received the franchise tag from the Ravens a month ago, which essentially bought the organization a couple of months to try and reach a contract extension. The two sides have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal or the diminutive running back will play the season under the one-year franchise tag and a $7.7 million salary.
“I don’t want to have to play under the tag, but if I had to, I have to do it,” Rice said . “Just knowing the Ravens, if they want to get a deal done, they’ll get it done. … I played out my contract, I outplayed my contract. Staying patient is key, but I do think I’m due. I’m up for one. Everybody knows I outplayed my contract. It’s not a hidden agenda. I think the Ravens have a history of taking care of their guys.”
The Ravens have reached agreements on contract extensions with several of their standouts who have previously received franchise tags, including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
That remains their goal with Rice, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,068) last season, was second in rushing (1,364) and made his second Pro Bowl. He also rushed for a career-high 12 touchdowns.
Team officials have acknowledged the possibility that Rice could hold out of training camp, but they said they have confidence that the running back will be prepared to play when he shows up to the team’s training facility in Owings Mills.
“It’s realistic in the sense that other players do it. It’s not too realistic in the sense that, the kind of young man that Ray is,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said to The Sun last week when asked about the possibility that Rice could hold out. “This is all up to his agent’s strategy, but Ray is not the kind of guy that, I think, needs to pursue that angle. If his agent convinces him that he has to, Ray is not the kind of guy that we fear will come in out of shape. If he does it, he does it. But I don’t think we’re going to see a drop-off in his performance this year.”
Rice certainly is under no contractual obligation to appear at OTA’s, and players, who are dealing with contract disputes or negotiations, often do not show up, fearing that it hurts their leverage when they report to the team building. While Rice said in New York that a final decision hasn’t been made and he’d like to be at the various mini-camps, scout.com reported Tuesday he will not be in attendance if a long-term deal is not reached. France did not return a request for comment from The Sun.
Rice’s teammate, Terrell Suggs, told The Sun last month that he expects the running back to holdout and he wouldn’t blame him if he did.
“There is no way I would come in,” Suggs said. “With a quarterback, it's different. He has to get timing down. He has to study. It's different for a running back, and let's not kid ourselves, Ray Rice isn't as big as a Arian Foster. There are only a certain amount of years you can play this game, and it's even a lower amount for a running back. God forbid that he gets hurt while at one of these camps. Running backs already take extra pounding, and there is no way he can participate in training camp without getting hit.”
Rice did tell the Ravens’ website that “progress is being made,” with the negotiations.
“We know things don’t happen overnight, but [I] think a lot of things can change within a few days, weeks, months. When it happens, it happens,” he said. “The franchise tag bought us some time to get it all figured out before the season.”