A day after Ray Rice broke the silence about his contract status by saying he had outplayed his rookie deal, Ravens general manger Ozzie Newsome agreed with the Pro Bowl running back and indicated that he is happy with the progress the organization has made in long-term contract talks with Todd France, the agent for Rice.
But Newsome seemed resigned that Rice would sit out offseason workouts, saying that a potential holdout is something that he and other team officials always discuss before designating a player as their franchise player.
"Up until a guy actually signs his franchise tender, he's not under contract and we're not allowed to even ask him to come to our mandatory minicamp," Newsome said Wednesday at the team's annual draft luncheon. "We understand those things. We've lived them through [Terrell] Suggs, through Chris [McAlister], Wally Williams even back [what] seems like decades ago. … We've experienced that before and we'll be prepared."
Rice told reporters Tuesday that he hopes to attend the team's offseason workouts, but said he hasn't made up his mind about whether he would attend. The team placed the franchise tag on Rice a month ago, but he has not signed the $7.7-million franchise tender. Until he does, he has no obligation to attend offseason workouts.
The Ravens have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal with the 25-year-old running back. If not, Rice will play the 2012 season under a one-year guaranteed contract that pays him $7.7 million, which as Newsome pointed out is "a significant increase" from the annual salary Rice earned during his four-year rookie contract.
"I'd like to think that every player with the Ravens that we draft hopefully outplays their contract, so yes he has," Newsome said when asked for his reaction to Rice's comments about outplaying his previous contract.
Newsome expressed confidence that if Rice were to skip offseason workouts, he would stay in football shape.
Talks also ongoing with Flacco, two corners
Newsome said the Ravens also remain in ongoing contract discussions with the representatives for quarterback Joe Flacco and cornerbacks (and fellow restricted free agents) Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. They appear to be making progress with Webb, in particular, but Newsome didn't say how close they were to a deal.
"What the status is, I don't know," Newsome said in reference to Webb and Williams, who are represented by the same agency. "I haven't seen Pat [Moriarty, the team's vice president of football administration] [Tuesday]."
Signing one or more of those four players to an extension could free up salary cap space for the Ravens, who currently have $1.75 million in cap room. But Newsome said that it isn't unique that the Ravens are so tight to the salary cap. "We've been here four or five other times that I can recall," Newsome said. He added that if there is "a good player that can come in and help our football team, we'll be able to fit them under our cap."
Newsome defends Flacco's comments
Flacco is once again under the national media microscope for answering questions about where he stands in the NFL's hierarchy of quarterbacks. In a Monday appearance on Baltimore radio station WNST, Flacco was asked if he thought he was a top-five quarterback. The 27-year-old responded, "I think I'm the best. I don't think I'm in the top five, I think I'm the best. I wouldn't be very successful at my job if I didn't feel that way."
The first question Newsome fielded from reporters Wednesday was about Flacco and his prideful comments.
"I don't think any player, any coach, any team does not think that they aren't the best at what they do. For Joe to say that, I think it's a common thing," he said. "The aspect of it I think we also look at is that if you make a statement like that, you also have to prepare yourself to be the best. And I'm sure that Joe is also doing that."
Harbaugh hopes to coach Kindle 'like crazy'
Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle isn't guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster for the 2012 season. But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that the team is "going to coach him like crazy" in offseason workouts and during training camp to try to get the most out of Kindle, a second-round draft pick in 2010.
Kindle missed the entire 2010 season after fracturing his skull while falling down stairs days before the start of his first training camp. He made the team last season and was active for two games but didn't record a tackle.
"He's made great progress. The year of practice really helped him," Harbaugh said. "We're going to make it our mission to get him on the field and get him playing, because he has talent and he wants to do well."
Newsome said that he hasn't spoken with Ed Reed since the team's loss in the AFC championship game, but said, "I anticipate Ed Reed being our starting free safety" in Week 1. … Harbaugh dismissed the notion that second-year offensive lineman Jah Reid, who is 6-foot-7 , is too tall to play left guard. "It's not like he can't get his pads under people," he said. "He can do it." … Harbaugh said that Paul Kruger will have competition for the outside linebacker spot that used to belong to Jarret Johnson. He mentioned that Albert McClellan and perhaps a draft pick from this month's NFL draft will also be in the mix, but added that he would be surprised if Kruger "doesn't rise to the occasion and have a heck of a year." … Team officials once again stated that they would like to draft a return specialist this year. … Former Ravens cornerback Chris Carr has joined the Minnesota Vikings and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney signed with the Indianapolis Colts.