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Ravens: Ravens agree to deal with third-rounder Bernard Pierce

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens agreed to a four-year contract with third-round rookie running back Bernard Pierce.

The Ravens traded their third-round draft pick, 91st overall, and a fifth-round pick, 164th overall, to theAtlanta Falcons to move up seven spots to obtain their likely primary backup to Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.

Although Pierce will have to compete with Anthony Allen and Damien Berry, the ultra-productive 6-foot, 218-pounder immediately becomes the frontrunner to win the job and provide a physical presence behind the Ravens' franchise player.

Pierce rushed for 3,570 career yards and 53 touchdowns, gaining 1,481 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns last season.

"He is a one-cut runner with some size," general manager Ozzie Newsome said during the NFL draft. "He runs very well behind his pads, and that's the style of running game that we're using right now."

Pierce met with team officials at the Ravens' training complex during the final week of official visits for draft prospects.

Pierce had a hunch that the Ravens might draft him, exchanging texts with coach John Harbaugh throughout the draft.

"He told me he was trying to get me," Pierce said during the draft. "So, I just trusted him and I waited and I got the phone call. He's a real good guy. He's cool, down to earth. He's a real guy. I think we clicked immediately as soon as I walked into the meeting room with him."

Pierce has run the 40-yard dash in the mid 4.4 range to 4.50 seconds, but it was his tackle-breaking and downhill style that drew the Ravens' interest.

He could provide a short-yardage presence bereft from the Ravens' backfield since Ricky Williams' abrupt retirement after last season.

"If you want me to get those short yards, those fourth-and-1s, third-and-shorts, I can definitely adapt to a game plan any way you want me to," Pierce said. "I'm a big back, and I'm not going to go down easy. I'm going to fight for every yard."

And Pierce is looking forward to learning from Rice.

"He's an amazing player," Pierce said. "I've watched a lot of film on him. He does his job and he does it well. I just want to come on the team and try to contribute any way I possibly can."

Because Rice isn't attending offseason activities while contract discussions continue, Pierce could find himself lining up with the first-team offense during his absence.

"I'm definitely ready," Pierce said. "It's going to be different, but I'm going to adapt and I'm going to try to mold myself as fast as possible to this offense and definitely try to get on the field as soon as possible."

Newsome said that Rice's unresolved contract status as an unsigned franchise player didn't factor into drafting Pierce.

"Ricky Williams retiring probably had more to do with that," Newsome said.

And the Ravens could use a strong runner with a nose for the end zone.

"The tape is very consistent," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "What I like about him is he's really good down in the red zone and also on the goal line. He's a real physical guy. He can lower his pads and does a really nice job down there."

Pierce isn't known as a home-run threat, but ran the 100 meters in 10.6 seconds in high school for the fastest time in Pennsylvania during his senior year.

"Deceptive," DeCosta said of Pierce's speed. "He's a bigger back. What we like about him is his burst. There's a chance of speed when he gets to the hole and he's able to clear the defender. We see change of speed, which is what most big-time backs have."

Pierce caught only 19 passes for 179 yards, but wasn't used much in that capacity.

"He doesn't get a lot of balls thrown to him," Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. "They use him as a bell cow and then turn around and hand the ball off to him a lot. He can work the ball in and around his frame. He made some nice catches on the sideline. He's definitely capable as a receiver."

Pierce said he declared early for the draft because he felt he had accomplished so much for the Owls.

Plus, he's about to become a father.

"I feel as though I did a lot of Temple," Pierce said. "I put my heart, body and soul all on the line for the team. I love my teammates, but I have a child on the way and it's time for me to grow up. So, I needed to make sure that I was able to step up and provide for my family."

Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com.

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