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Leach's future with Ravens remains unclear

Ravens fullback Vonta Leach celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the Ravens' 24-9 playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts in Baltimore on Jan. 6, 2013.
Ravens fullback Vonta Leach celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the Ravens' 24-9 playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts in Baltimore on Jan. 6, 2013. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

OWINGS MILLS - More than a month later, and with training camp now less than two months away, Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach's future with the Ravens is no clearer than it was when Baltimore selected fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round of the NFL draft in late April.

Is it still possible Leach could be released at some point before the season? Yes. But is it also feasible that the Ravens could keep Leach and his $4.33 million cap figure even with Juszczyk now on the roster? Yes.

At least Thursday, Leach was politically correct in regards to his future in his first conversation with the Baltimore media since the Ravens drafted Juszczyk.

"We're both still here, so we'll see how it goes," Leach said. "We'll see how it goes, but hopefully it can work out for both of us. If it don't, then I feel like I can still play in this league and I'll find a job somewhere. ...

"But I'll be happy to teach whatever [Juszczyk] needs to know as far as for the fullback position. Got no problem with it. If he's got any questions, he can come and ask me."

Leach's future with Baltimore has been speculated about for much of the past several months, since even before the Ravens drafted Juszczyk.

Leach, 31, is still regarded by most as the top fullback in the NFL, and he's been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons, but his role was greatly diminished last year as the Ravens transitioned to more of a wide-open, up-tempo offense.

He was on the field for just 41 percent of Baltimore's offensive snaps (including the playoffs) after being on the field for 53 percent of the snaps in 2011.

But the main issue as far as Leach is, combined with his diminished role, that his cap number is as large as it is and that he's reportedly unwilling to take a pay cut.

Said Leach Thursday: "When the situation comes, I think we'll take care of it."

If the Ravens can make it work financially, Baltimore Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, as he has at other times this offseason, said Thursday that he sees a place on the Ravens' roster for both Leach and Juszczyk.

Leach is more of a traditional fullback, known as an imposing, physical presence as a lead blocker in the run game. Juszczyk is more of a new age, hybrid-type fullback who is considered to be a solid blocker but is also a threat as a pass-catcher and caught 52 passes for 706 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior at Harvard last season.

"[Vonta] and Kyle are two different players - same with me and Bernard [Pierce]," Rice said. "I don't think you can compare the two because they are totally different players.

"[But] how can he mentor him? Vonta is going into his 10th season. I think there's a lot of knowledge to be gained from that - because from a blocking aspect, Vonta is the best at it. But from a hybrid fullback/tight end aspect, Kyle can catch the ball and do a lot of different things. I think from a learning aspect, you can always take from a guy who has played 10 years in the National Football League."

What that means for Leach's future is still unclear, although Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome did say in late April that there could be a place on the roster for both Leach and Juszczyk.

"We want to make decisions based on how guys perform out on the football field," Newsome said at the time. "We're going to get Kyle [Juszczyk] in here, and the thing we like about Kyle, other than his ability to play on the offensive side, is we expect him to be a very good special teams contributor.

"So, could there be a place for both of them? Yes, there could be. Because as [coach] John [Harbaugh] and I try to put our 53-man squad together, we want to keep the best 53 players."

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