When Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco handed the football off and threw swing passes to Ray Rice this spring, he had a close-up view of the three-time Pro Bowl running back's physical transformation.
Rice had regained much of his old quickness, displaying an ability to run away from defenders that all but disappeared during the worst season of his NFL career last year.
Rice has lost roughly 20 pounds since last season, when he weighed as much as 225 pounds while struggling with hip and quadriceps injuries that robbed him of his ability to elude pursuit or break tackles.
"I think we’ve looked really good, and [Rice] has done a great job of pressing, cutting, getting in there and having the explosion afterward," said Flacco. "He’s shown a lot."
At just 26 years old, it was surprising to see Rice's production fall off the way it did, but he was dealing with hip and quad injuries throughout the season. He was also coming off of a Super Bowl run the previous year, which likely wore him down. GM Ozzie Newsome said he expects Rice to return to Pro Bowl form, but HC John Harbaugh said after the season that the team could take more of a committee approach at running back, which would limit Rice's upside. Still, assuming his offseason legal issues don't impact his availability, he is a bounceback candidate in Gary Kubiak's offense.