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Ravens' Rice feels fresh, ready to run vs Denver

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Ravens' Rice feels fresh, ready to run vs Denver

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) It's the time of year when Ray Rice usually begins to feel the effects of being the Baltimore Ravens' go-to guy on offense.

This season, however, has been different. Rice had a combined 318 carries and catches over the 16-game schedule, the lowest total since his rookie year in 2008.

Part of the reason is that the Ravens (11-6) relied heavily on quarterback Joe Flacco, who set a career high in yards passing. In addition, rookie Bernard Pierce logged 108 carries as Rice's backup.

Rice isn't complaining, because he's neither tired or bruised as the Ravens prepare for their 18th game of the season, on Saturday in Denver against the top-seeded Broncos (13-3).

``I'm fresh in the playoffs. I'm healthy,'' the 5-foot-8 Rice said. ``This is the best I've ever felt, but obviously, that's because I've had a guy come in, and when he gets in there, and we don't lose a step.''

Pierce will get his share of carries against the Broncos, but the Ravens will be counting heavily on Rice to help establish ball control and, in the process, keep Denver quarterback Peyton Manning off the field.

``He's a great back and can obviously turn a little play into a 50-yard gain,'' Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda said. ``It's exciting to block for guys like that. You want guys like that on your team - playmakers. He's been doing that for us for five years. We know what he's about and how important he is to our offense.''

Rice had his fourth straight 1,000-yard rushing season and earned his third invitation to the Pro Bowl. His numbers during the regular season are usually impressive, but in the playoffs he's topped the 70-yard mark on the ground only once - a 159-yard effort against New England in January 2010.

``Obviously, I want to be a guy that's remembered by his playoff play,'' Rice said. ``It's time to step it up another level.''

Sometimes, though, his presence in the backfield is all it takes to help Baltimore win.

``There might be times where in the pass game I took out two defenders so one guy can get open,'' Rice said. ``There are times where there's a fake where Joe Flacco can fake it to me, and there's an over route coming across the middle. If it's being a decoy, that's sometimes what you have to be. I like having the target on my back.''

That bulls-eye is being shared by Pierce, who ran for 103 yards last week in Baltimore's 24-9 win over Indianapolis. Although Rice should get the majority of the carries Saturday, Pierce will see playing time, too.

``The fact that the altitude is probably going to be a factor as far as guys who are carrying the ball getting gassed, those two guys are going to take care of each other,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``That's something we've been building on.''

But Rice remains the focal part of the offense.

``Ray Rice is extremely important to this team,'' guard Kelechi Osemele said. ``If you don't have a running game you won't have a passing game. Guys will just pin their ears back and rush. Ray is also a great blocker and can slip out of the backfield and make some plays in open space, too. You can't really replace a player like that.''

During the regular season Rice fumbled only one time, and Baltimore recovered the loose ball. Against the Colts, he lost two fumbles. He accepted blame for the miscues, but vows it won't happen again. Ever.

``As a runner, there's a certain time where you have to be smart, and going to the playoffs, I have to be smart,'' he said. ``As a runner, you learn from it. It's not something that I'm used to doing, obviously. I'm used to scoring touchdowns and making plays. I will continue to try to make plays, but I'll be smarter.''

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Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Antonio Brown will remain a Pittsburgh Steeler for a long time. On Monday, the team announced that Antonio Brown signed a contract extension for four years that is worth $68 million. 

The deal makes Brown the highest paid NFL wide receiver and will keep him on the Steelers roster until 2021.

It also included a signing bonus of $19 million according to ESPN. The new deal does not effect the 28-year-old's salary for the 2017 season which is scheduled to be $4.7 million.

In 2014, Brown lead the league with 1,698 yards and receptions with 129. Surpassing both marks in 2015 with 1,834 yards in 136 receptions, the seven-year veteran quickly became regarded as the best wide receiver in the league. He is also a five time Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro three times, including last season.

Teammate Le'Veon Bell will stay with the team at least for one more season. Earlier on Monday, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell which is expected to earn him over $12 million based on last season's numbers.

At 25-years-old, Bell has had a career tattered with injuries since he came into the league in 2013. As a dual-threat player from the backfield and as a receiver, he has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage each year.

Bell is coming off a Pro-Bowl season with 1,884 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in only 12 games. 

RELATED: Adidas to give away an island if prospect breaks record at NFL Combine

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Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Don’t be alarmed if you see numerous NFL prospects running around the field with cheetah print adidas cleats. No its not for charity or a charitable cause, but rather a chance for the athlete to make some waves before even joining an NFL squad.

Those NFL prospects are vying for a private island.

That’s right. With one tweet, adidas announced the ultimate incentive for any athlete willing to wear their special edition adizero 5-star 40 cleats during the 40-yard dash event at the 2017 NFL Combine.

But, there's one other requirement that makes this private island a distant dream. The prospect must beat Chris Johnson’s 2015 record of 4.24 seconds.

The cleats are designed specifically for this popular event, weighing in at a whopping 4.8 ounces and now can provide soaking up the sun and catching the waves to one lucky prospect.


Adidas will be the kings of the jungle with this fun marketing tactic while one prospect could be crowned the king of the 40-yard dash.