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Ray Rice wants to become an even bigger receiving threat

FootballNFLNFL Pro BowlBaltimore RavensRay RiceSan Diego Chargers

Since he entered the NFL five years ago, no running back has caught as many passes as Ray Rice.

The Ravens' star running back has caught 311 passes for 2,713 yards, 17 more receptions than New Orleans Saints all-purpose running back Darren Sprokes and 23 yards less than Sproles.

Now the Pro Bowl running back wants to increase his role in the passing game one year removed from catching 61 passes for 478 yards and one touchdown.

"Now that guys know that I'm a threat out of the backfield, I got to use my hands a little more," Rice said at Ray Rice Day, a free youth football clinic at Calvert Hall. "I get pushed a lot coming out of the backfield, and that's a sign of respect, but if I can get my hands and get out on pass routes and continue to get open for Joe Flacco."

Drafted in the second round out of Rutgers in 2008, Rice also leads the NFL during that span with 91 catches and 863 yards on third downs. His 41 receiving first downs, including his dramatic 4th-and-29 conversion during an overtime win over the San Diego Chargers last season, ties him with Sproles during the past five seasons. During the 2009 season, Rice set a franchise record for a running back with 78 receptions for 702 yards and a touchdown.

Listed at 5 feet 8 and 212 pounds, Rice looked lean and well-conditioned during his football clinic. After working out on his own last offseason while his five-year, $40 million maximum value contract was being negotiated, Rice has been regularly training with his teammates in the Ravens' conditioning program at team headquarters.

"I picked a specific area where this year, I actually ended the season and realized I was about 213, which I usually play at 212," said Rice, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who rushed for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns last season for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing yeason. "I try to work on different things."

Without mentioning any specifics, Rice noted that run-game coordinator Juan Castillo will be making slight changes to the running game.

Rice has rushed for 5,517 career yards and 33 touchdowns, ranking second in franchise history behind Jamal Lewis.

"I'm looking forward to executing a lot of different things that we've always talked about," Rice said, "and staying at a high level."

awilson@baltsun.com

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FootballNFLNFL Pro BowlBaltimore RavensRay RiceSan Diego Chargers
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