Ravens' Rice could be primed for big day against Buccaneers

In the Ravens' 37-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Ray Rice got his first rushing touchdown since scoring two against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 10.

That's also the last time the Pro Bowl running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark, but Rice said he's not stressing about his numbers.

"I'm just playing my role," he said Wednesday. "One thing I told you all I wasn't going to do was force the issue of trying to make the big play. I say the plays are going to happen. I've been just doing what I have to do. I've been there for [quarterback] Joe [Flacco] in the passing game, and in the run game, we're taking as much as we can right now. I'm just trying to continue to be consistent."

After gaining 65 yards on 19 carries against a Panthers defense that had been ranked 27th in the NFL against the run, Rice would appear to be getting another favorable matchup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 29th-ranked unit.

In six of the Buccaneers' past eight games, opposing running backs have reached the 100-yard mark, including the New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory (158 yards) and Carolina's Mike Goodson (100).

But Sunday, Tampa Bay handcuffed the San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore to 23 yards on 12 attempts, and Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris dismissed the unit's dismal ranking.

"Stats are for losers," he said. "You know, we go out and we play our game, and whatever it takes to win football games is the only stat that matters. You know, all those things will be critiqued at the end of the year. You've got to go out and do whatever it takes to win that football game, every single year, every single week."

Tampa Bay's troubles on the ground would appear to be an inviting target for the Ravens, who could take advantage of the services of Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. But Rice said he is confident that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will design a game plan that attacks the Buccaneers on the ground and through the air.

"When you look at what they did against Frank Gore last week, you can't look at their stats and say, 'We're going to run the ball on them,'" Rice said. "So what I like to say is we'll come into the game with a complete game plan, a mix between run and pass. Cam is doing a great job of finding out where we can attack these guys at."

Lewis not easing back

Two days after Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that he had approached Ray Lewis about reducing the number of snaps to extend his career, the 11-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker said Wednesday that he can't afford to leave the field to get a breather.

"If I do that, I'd cheat a whole lot of people," he said. "To give you an example last week, when the game was almost over right after I had that pick, Coach came and said, 'Come out.' And then [outside linebacker Terrell Suggs] looked at me and said, 'You can't come out.' … When I retire, I will be off the field a lot. But right now, I've got too much work to do, and for me to be out there, there's no way I can leave them out there fighting that battle and say, 'Oh, I can't be out there with them.' No, because abilitywise -- I mean, I don't talk about my business -- but there's no 'backer in the game better at doing what I do. So I don't worry about that stuff."

At 35 and after 15 seasons, Lewis continues to play at a high level and on every down. He leads the Ravens in tackles with 91, and with the 30th interception of his career in Sunday's throttling of the Panthers, he is the only player in NFL history with at least 35 sacks and 30 interceptions.

CLARIFICATION: It has been pointed out that an article in Friday's edition of The Sun suggested that Ravens coach John Harbaugh had approached Ray Lewis about reducing his number of snaps now. That wasn't the intent of the article. Harbaugh had said that the timing of the topic concerned the future, not next week nor this season. The Sun regrets any confusion caused by the article.

A surprising promotion

Bryan Mattison made sure he didn't jump to conclusions.

Even after starting right guard Chris Chester had been hospitalized Thursday night with a bacterial skin infection and the Ravens were in need of another interior offensive lineman, Mattison didn't allow himself to think that he would be the one promoted from the practice squad to the active roster until it actually occurred Saturday, the day before the team's game against the Carolina Panthers.

"When Chris wasn't here, I did think they were going to need a backup center somewhere," said Mattison, who plays both guard and center. "I knew I was one of the options, but I didn't want to get too excited because crazier things have happened. But I was glad."

Morris: No apologies for schedule

Although they are 7-3, the Buccaneers' seven victories have come against opponents with losing records. In the three losses to the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay has been outscored 96-40.

Some analysts have pointed out that the Buccaneers, who finished in last place in the NFC South with a 3-13 record last season, benefit from playing a fourth-place schedule. But Morris, Tampa Bay's coach, took issue with that stance.

"I've got the same schedule as everybody else in my division -- the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints -- besides two games, and we haven't played those two games yet," Morris said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. "You play the people they put on your schedule, they line them up, and you go out there and you play. There's nobody in the NFL that's an easy game. That's all media talk."

End zone

After sitting out Wednesday's practice, Ed Reed returned to practice Thursday despite an illness that the six-time Pro Bowl free safety called "the worst feeling in my life." "I don't know what was going on, man," said Reed, who practiced on a limited basis. "It kind of carried over into today. Right before practice, I had to get an IV or whatnot. I'm feeling all right." … Cory Redding missed his second consecutive day of practice Thursday because of an arm injury, but the defensive end vowed to be ready for Sunday. "My arm's good," Redding said. "Right now, my mindset is to play on Sunday." … In addition to Redding, Chester (skin infection) did not practice for the second straight day. Free safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised right heel) was upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday. Rookie tight end Ed Dickson (thigh) was limited for the second consecutive day. … The Buccaneers did not have starting defensive end Kyle Moore, who missed his second consecutive day of practice because of a shoulder injury. Another starter, tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), fully participated after being sidelined Wednesday. Another starter, linebacker Quincy Black (ankle), practiced fully for the second straight day.


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