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Ray Rice says he's back to full strength, ready to make an impact

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Standing inside the Ravens' locker room Friday, running back Ray Rice delivered an emphatic message that he's back to full strength following a strained left hip flexor earlier this season.

Rice ranks 34th in the NFL in rushing heading into Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, having gained 197 yards on 71 carries in five games, an average of 2.8 yards a carry, with three touchdowns.

"There's no way you can't call me full strength," said Rice, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons. "When I've had a chance to hit the hole, you've seen what I did. When I get the chance to hit it, you'll see I'm at full strength."

Rice downplayed any personal emotional reaction to how the running game has struggled, but expressed frustration following Sunday's 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers where he was limited to 34 yards on 14 carries. The Ravens are 27th in the NFL in rushing offense, gaining just 72.7 yards per game.

Rice is on pace to rush for 630 yards after averaging 1,267 rushing yards over the previous four seasons. Three quarterbacks have run for more yards than Rice: Michael Vick, Russell Wilson and Terrelle Pryor.

"I don't have frustrations," Rice said. "I'm about winning football games. Honestly, it's just getting to the next week. I dealt with my own adversity during my injury, but I'm back. And now I'm looking forward to this game, getting back for bye week, getting some time away and then I'll come back for the second half of the season ready to roll again.

"I've been through a lot worse in my life. This little injury I'm going through isn't going to faze me. It's one of them things. I've played through some stuff and this is the first year I've had to deal with something like this, but I'm back. I'm feeling pretty good."

Rice was asked if he had any issues with his weight or conditioning.

"For me, I never had a problem with my weight or anything," Rice said. "I come into the season a certain weight and actually I have to do my best to keep it on. It hasn't been a problem with me in terms of my conditioning.

"For me, it was just going out there now this year and battling through what I had to get through. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew I was limited, but now I'm back to full strength and I'm looking forward to making an impact on the pass and run game."

The Ravens are expected to change their blocking schemes a bit Sunday at Heinz Field, going back to a basic 'hat-on-a-hat' approach.

"Sometimes, we might have been a little too predictable," Rice said. "Now, when we change it up a little bit, get some things going and spread the ball around a little bit, we'll start getting the creases we need to get.

"Right now, we've identified our problems. We're eager to fix them. We've got to get ready for Sunday. ... In terms of running the ball, week in and week out, execution level has to be better. You'll see our changes we've made on Sunday."

Rice, for strategic reasons, didn't outline any specific changes but emphasized it won't be anything dramatic.

"It's the same stuff we've been doing," Rice said. "It's just minor tweaks. Without going into too much detail, you'll see a lot more of the changes on Sunday of what we're going to do.

"We've run the same plays. It just might be out of different formation or something. We just got to execute. It's not the play-calling."

awilson@baltsun.com

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