The host of honor took the microphone, thanked the adults in the crowd and provided a few words of wisdom for the kids. And before he was finished, Ray Rice left little doubt where his focus will be once the Ravens’ 2012 season begins.
“I’m going to do my job and bring a Super Bowl back to Baltimore,” Rice proclaimed.
The Ravens’ fifth-year running back welcomed nearly 700 kids today at Ray Rice Day, an annual football clinic that he started in his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y. Aided by several of his Ravens’ teammates and members of the Towson University football team, Rice moved from station-to-station at Calvert Hall, teaching fundamentals, like the correct way to carry the ball to lower the risk of fumbling, and urging kids to have fun and do things the right way.
The on-line registration for the event, which was free for children ages seven to 14, filled up in less than a minute.
“The fact that it [filled up] in like point zero seconds shows the type of impact that he has in our community,” said Ravens second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith who was joined at the event by teammates LaQuan Williams, Anthony Allen, Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Vonta Leach along with former Raven Brad Jackson. “I’m excited to be here and help support him.”
For Rice, the event has become a highlight of his year, and that his mother, Janet, and his high school coach, Lou DiRienzo were by his side to support him made it even more special.
"This takes precedence over everything else that is going on,” said Rice. "You got all the bad things in the world going on, and then look at these kids. They’re nothing but smiles. This is, quite frankly, what I love to do. I love the kids, I love being active in the community. I’m trying to make it more than one day. I kind of feel bad for the kids that didn’t get in. Being that I’m in Baltimore, I kind of wanted to do something more. You’re always trying to go extra. I try not to leave anybody out, but to see the smiles on these kids’ faces is priceless.
"I want them to have fun, but at the end of the day, I want to all leave here knowing that they’re all winners and they all have the same opportunity that I had. That same opportunity that I had was not necessarily in the NFL, but it was to do right in school, respect your parents and go ahead and be something with your life. Not all of us are going to go pro. Football was just my outlet to other things. It’s a fun game so why not come out here, teach them some fundamentals and discipline and let them apply that to life."
This figures to be an interesting couple of months for Rice who was given the franchise tag earlier this offseason despite his wishes for a long-term contract extension. The Ravens have until July 16 to sign him to an extension or the 25-year-old running back will play the season under the $7.7 million tag.
Rice didn’t address the ongoing contract negotiations between his agent, Todd France, and the Ravens. However, he left little doubt that he will be ready to play when he reports to the team. Rice is expected to sit out the various mini-camps and organized team activities.
"Training is something that I never worried about,” Rice said. “It’s something that you got to want. I actually have the burning to desire to come back, not only for myself, but to come back ready to play, My training has always been part of my routine. Nobody ever had to beat me in the head to get up and work out. Anybody who knows about my workout regimen, I’ve probably been through two before noon. Training has never been my issues but obviously, the team camaraderie, the lockout and all that stuff, that’s the stuff that you kind of miss with the guys. But as far as being ready, I know I’ll be ready."
Asked about the shape Rice was in, Smith said, “Ray works. That’s one thing that he will do whether he’s with us, back in [New] Jersey, or around here locally. You know that he’s going to work. That’s not a concern for anyone.”
Rice also said that he had no problem with the Ravens’ recent selection of Temple running back Bernard Pierce in the third round.
"One thing I know about the NFL, I’ve always said that one back really can’t do it all no more. I’d love for a guy to give me a spell or give me a breather. I was genuine and I was serious about saying that Ricky Williams was the best thing to happen to me last year because this is the healthiest I’ve been. Quite frankly, going into my fifth season, this is the best I’ve ever felt,” Rice said.
"You’ve got a guy that wants to take the load off you, you don’t get too many of those guys. But he is a rookie. He’s got some ways to go. I won’t mind letting him in there and letting him get some banging in. We have some great backs, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry, so there’s going to be some nice competition going on there. One thing I build with the group is … a camaraderie. I tell them, ‘Listen, we have a long season. Take care of your bodies right now, don’t abuse it and get ready for a long season.’”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun