Ray Rice still confident he can have impact despite down year

Jason Miller

The three-time Pro Bowl running back is off to the worst start of his career, but says he can turn things around during the back half of the season.

The 2013 season hasn't gone the way Ray Rice hoped. The running back's Baltimore Ravens are in third place in the AFC North with a 3-5 record, and he's on pace to finish with a career low in rushing average and his lowest yardage total since his rookie year.

Despite all that, the three-time Pro Bowler says he remains confident in his and his team's abilities.

"My level of confidence is where it was in Week 1," Rice told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. "I still believe we'll get the run game going. We have the guys. It's never going to be an effort thing. We've just seen some pretty good fronts, and I've battled through stuff this year."

Rice is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry -- second-worst among NFL running backs -- and has rushed for just 259 yards through nine weeks. He's on pace to finish with just 519 yards for the season, which would be his lowest total since running for 454 yards in 2008. He hasn't dipped below 1,143 in any of the previous four seasons.

"Everybody has these situations," Rice said. "A down year isn't going to make or break me as a person. I've been through a lot worse than averaging what I'm averaging in carries. I've got broad shoulders."

Rice, who ran for just 17 yards on 11 carries during last week's loss to the Browns, said the strained hip flexor that limited him earlier this year is no longer a contributing factor to his slump.

"I've been working on my health, my health is there. And now it's time to keep pushing for these next eight games."

Inconsistency along the offensive line has no doubt contributed to Rice's troubles as well. The Ravens shipped veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to Miami back in October and have struggled to overcome the departure of six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. On top of that, left guard Kelechi Osemele is planning to have season-ending back surgery and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda is coming off of an offseason rotator cuff procedure.

Rice will get a chance to kick off a second-half surge to 2013 this Sunday as the Ravens face the first-place Cincinnati Bengals and their top-10 run defense.

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