After a disappointing season in which he dealt with a strained hip flexor and quadriceps injury and struggled to break tackles or elude defenders, Ravens running back Ray Rice vowed that he would rededicate himself to regain his Pro Bowl form.
By the end of the season, Rice was heavier than he'd been at any point in his NFL career, weighing roughly 225 pounds.
Rice has since lost 15 pounds, getting down to a leaner 210 and now working toward a goal of reporting at 205 for next season, according to his Timonium-based trainer, Kyle Jakobe of Sweat Performance.
"Ray's body composition has completely changed since the end of the season," Jakobe said. "He has lost 12 to 13 pounds, 12 to 13 bad pounds, and essentially replaced a lot of that body composition with lean muscle. You can see the difference in his face and his body. He has cut down his weight and you can see it in how he moves. He's added lean muscle.
"Outside of the eyeball test, Ray has looked explosive and is cutting on a dime. We haven't seen that since the the third week of last season. Ray played last year at 10 to 16 pounds over where we like him. We usually try to send him into camp at 205 pounds, because that's where he plays his best football. Last year, he came back a little heavier. Ray was hurt and he played at a fraction of what he could normally play at."
Rice rushed for 660 yards last season, the lowest total of his career since he became a regular starter, and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. It was a dramatic dip in production for Rice during the second year of a five-year, $35 million contract.
Jakobe emphasized that Rice, who faces charges of simple assault-domestic violence after an altercation at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino last month, has transformed his diet as well as his exercise regimen.
"I got him hooked up with a personal chef, so he doesn't have to think about anything about what he's going to eat," Jakobe said. "Everything is set up — his breakfast, lunch and dinner. His nutrition is great now.
"Ray knows he was too heavy last year and didn't feel like he was moving as well as the past. That bothered him, and he's extremely motivated and determined. He just felt like he was too heavy and not as mobile as he was before. So he's working on it hard."
During a news conference Thursday to announce his four-year, $14 million contract, Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones said he noticed a difference in Rice.
"I saw Ray. He looks like he lost a little bit of weight, like he's ready to roll," Jones said. "He's looking fit."
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last month, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Rice played at 217 pounds last season, which was too heavy.
"What the weight ends up being, we'll see, but it's lighter, a lot lighter," Harbaugh said. "To me, it's under 210 for sure. Ray is pretty consistent. It's not like Ray fluctuated. Ray didn't get fat.
"Ray just got big and thick. His body fat only went up 2 pounds from what it was when he was a rookie, so the rest of that weight was all muscle mass. It's just too much muscle mass."
Rice has rushed for 6,180 career yards and 37 touchdowns in six NFL seasons, catching 369 passes for 3,034 yards and six touchdowns.
Jakobe said Rice is determined to prove himself again.
"When I hear the things about him, that he's lost a step, it's hilarious to me, because I see him on a day-to-day basis," Jakobe said. "People see him now and they are like, 'Holy crap.' He's turned it around completely. Ray won't sneak up on anybody because he has a reputation as a great player. He's super competitive and he's taking care of his body. I expect him to bounce back and have a great year."
Jakobe also trains Ravens cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Chykie Brown; offensive guard A.Q. Shipley; former Ravens guard Ben Grubbs, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints; New York Jets safety Antonio Allen; and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and Baltimore native Terrence Garvin.
"A.Q. is awesome, one of the hardest workers I've ever been around," Jakobe said. "He's a beast. Jimmy is a stud. Chykie has really been picking up his footwork and hand-eye coordination. He's progressed a lot.
"Lardarius is one of my all-time favorites. He cares a ton. He works out like he plays. He's always in attack mode."