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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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Ray Lewis launching bourbon brand for charity, gifting first bottles to Trump, Pence

Ray Lewis launching bourbon brand for charity, gifting first bottles to Trump, Pence

Ravens great Ray Lewis will soon have his own line of bourbons called Ray's Reserve, according to The Spirit Business. 

It won't be a profit-driven enterprise. Instead, only 100 bottles will be produced for charity.

The proceeds from their sale will go to the Time to Shine Scholaship & Internship Program for Women, which helps high-school aged women pursue educational and professional opportunities. 

However, Lewis intends to give the first two bottles away as gifts to incoming president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence. 

“I have been thoroughly impressed with president-elect Trump and his desire to help inner city kids and provide better education opportunities for women,” Lewis said.

The bourbon will go on sale starting February 15. 

MORE RAVENS: Steve Smith addresses coaching rumors

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Ravens name Joe D'Alessandris new offensive line coach

Ravens name Joe D'Alessandris new offensive line coach

Joe D’Alessandris has been named the Ravens’ new offensive line coach, the team announced Thursday. D’Allesandris was tabbed to replace Juan Castillo, who left the Ravens to become the Bills offensive line coach.

D’Alessandris has been an offensive line coach with the Chargers (2013-15), Bills (2010), and Chiefs (2008-09), and he has been a coach at the college or pro level since 1979.

“I feel very privileged and honored to come work with such a tremendous organization,” said D’Alessandris in a statement released by the team. “I very much look forward to the tremendous opportunity of working for (coach) John Harbaugh and (general manager) Ozzie Newsome on an incredible staff.”

Harbaugh said D’Alessandris had the credentials to improve the offensive line in all areas.

“We had a number of very good, qualified candidates for this position, and we have the right fit with Joe,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “He’s a hard-nosed, experienced coach, who is an excellent teacher. He’ll be able to work with our veterans to get the most out of them, and he’ll take our young linemen to higher levels.”

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