Carroll County Times

Pierce looking to break into Ravens' backfield

OWINGS MILLS - Back healthy after tweaking his hamstring during the second of the Ravens' two minicamps, rookie running back Bernard Pierce enters training camp with his sights set on winning the backup job behind Pro Bowler Ray Rice.

Ricky Williams rushed for 444 yards and two touchdowns as Baltimore's backup running back last season, but his abrupt retirement in February created a void in the Ravens' backfield, one Pierce hopes to help fill.

A third-round pick out of Temple, Pierce will compete with 2011 seventh-round pick Anthony Allen as well as Damien Berry, who spent all of last season on the Ravens' practice squad after being acquired as an undrafted free agent.

"I look forward to every practice, being able to go out on the field and do my best every day," Pierce said Tuesday, following the first practice of training camp. "I'm definitely looking to turn heads every day on the practice field. The other two, they are really good guys. We already have a friendship, so right now it's just competition."

While it may seem tough to replace Williams' productivity, Pierce, a one-cut runner who excels in short-yardage, sees himself as a good fit for the Ravens' zone-blocking scheme.

"I feel really comfortable [in the scheme]," Pierce said, adding that he operated some out of a similar system during his first two years at Temple.

A tough, nice-sized runner with good vision, the compact 6-foot, 225-pound Pierce finished his college career as Temple's all-time leading rusher, accumulating 3,570 yards and 53 touchdowns in three seasons with the Owls.

He rushed for 1,481 yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns as a junior last season.

He posted a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February, although he didn't consistently display that kind of speed during his time at Temple and isn't considered a big-time breakaway threat.

He'll also have to prove he can hold up in pass protection, an area he struggled with in college, but the Ravens seem to like what they've seen so far of Pierce, albeit without pads to this point.

"The one thing is you can see why we drafted him," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said in June. "I can't wait until the pads come on. I think that becomes the true test for any young player, but he is physical, smart and fast.

"Now, he just needs to keep learning the system, listen to what [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery is asking him to do, listen to the guys in the room. One thing that is obvious is that he is a good football player."