By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
11:56 AM EDT, April 22, 2014
Ravens running back Ray Rice has made major progress since the end of a season in which he struggled with hip and quadriceps injuries and played at the heaviest weight of his career.
Rice weighed roughly 225 pounds by the end of last season, when he rushed for just 660 yards and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, the lowest numbers since he became a regular starter.
Ravens strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki said Tuesday that it's evident that Rice has made some improvements physically in the offseason.
"He looks great," Rogucki said during an availability at the team's voluntary workouts. "I've spoken to Ray. He's doing some things differently as far as his diet and so forth. He told me he has a handle on it.
"He looks good. Whatever he did from the end of the season to now, he's in a good position right now."
In March, Rice's Timonium-based trainer, Kyle Jakobe of Sweat Performance, told The Baltimore Sun that Rice was down to a much leaner 210 pounds with a goal of reporting at 205 pounds for next season.
Meanwhile, Ravens offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele continues to make steady progress in his rehabilitation from November back surgery.
"He's coming along very well," Rogucki said. "He's on track. He's doing a great job. Those guys that are in that status of rehab, they're progressing. He's doing fine."
Rogucki reported high attendance for the voluntary workouts, which have included quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor, wide receivers Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones, cornerback Lardarius Webb, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end Owen Daniels, middle linebacker Daryl Smith, free safety Matt Elam, cornerback Jimmy Smith, inside linebacker Arthur Brown, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, kicker Justin Tucker, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, long snapper Morgan Cox and offensive linemen Jah Reid and Rick Wagner along with several other players.
"Our numbers are high," Rogucki said. "Are expectations low? No, because if they're here we'll get them where we need them to be. Anybody that comes into this program, our expectations are always going to be high for them. If we don't start pressing that button today then three weeks from now they aren't going to be ready. Our expectations are always high and, right now, we're pleased with what they're doing."
As far as having many veteran players and starters in attendance along with younger players like linebackers John Simon, Adrian Hamilton and Albert McClellan, Rogucki said: "When you have your leaders here, that's a good thing. I look at strength and conditioning as we're a small piece of the pie. Every player that's in our program is important from Joe Flacco to the guy that's running down on special teams to the guy that's just on practice squad. When they come in to us, I'm not concerned if it's Flacco or a practice-team guy. What I'm concerned about is I'm going to train this player as if he's a starter and that's how you have to approach it. If a practice squad guy is in there the same time as Flacco, the practice squad guy will be paid attention to just like we do Flacco. Everyone's important. You never know when that practice squad guy becomes Joe Flacco."
Rogucki, who emphasizes building strength and speed and making sure players' necks are strong and flexible for safety reasons, said he's pleased with how workouts are going so far.
"We always strive to get stronger," he said. "What is unique about your program? Every time they come in, they're going to do more weight and more reps without bells and whistles. There's a lot of programs that have bells and whistles, but the bottom line is in order to survive in this league you got to lift and you got to lift heavy.
"You've got to run and you've got to run fast. You got to condition and you got to condition long. There's no other answers than that in order to survive. It's a car crash every time they hit."
The players are required to run six 300-yard runs as a baseline of their conditioning. The players' exercises include the bench press, incline press, squats and deadlifts.
"Our main objective is to get these guys in shape as quick as we can and be safe in doing that," Rogucki said. "We expect a lot out of them. Bottom line is we got to get them strong and in shape as quick as we can.
"We're attacking it as hard as we can with the concept of being safe and making sure we're getting ready for the next phase. What we try to do is make this as competitive as we can. Competition is key for us."