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Ray Rice is in the Best Shape of his Career

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(Credits: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

One moth ago Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach sent running back Ray Rice a text message listing the NFL’s top running backs, with the suggestion that Rice, who was not in his top ten, needed to get it going.

Whatever Leach said, it worked.

Rice went a rampage to end the regular season, averaging 128.4 yards a game on the ground, while scoring four touchdowns in the Ravens’ last five games.

Rice’s 1,364 yards rushing for the season were good for second behind Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew’s 1,606 yards. His 704 receiving yards were also good for second among running backs, trailing New Orleans’ Darren Sproles’ 706. For the season, no other player had more yards from scrimmage than Rice’s 2,068.

His touchdowns runs of 70 and 51 yards last Sunday carried the Ravens to a 24-16 victory in Cincinnati that secured the Ravens’ first AFC North title since the 2006 season.

Rice said he intends to carry his late-season roll into the postseason.

“To be honest, this is the best I’ve been, the best I’ve ever felt,” Rice said, via CSNBaltimore.com. “I got after the weight room a little harder coming into the season. I’ve had the ability to get stronger during the season. Give the strength and conditioning coaches credit. Going into the playoffs, I’m not feeling beat up or battered.

“Everyone comes into the season fast and strong, but you see guys dwindling down. Not to pat myself on the back, but I had long runs at the beginning of the season, and now I’m having long runs and scoring touchdowns. I think it all has to do with the way you work, the weight work, everything you’ve got to do to take care of your body.”

The key will be offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who calls the plays, to continue to ride the two-time Pro Bowl running back in the postseason.

At the pace Rice has been running at of late, there’s little doubt the fourth-year offensive coordinator will shy away from getting the ball in the hands of his dynamic running back.

“I don’t feel the pressure of carrying the team. But I feel like whenever a plays needs to be made, Cam is going to get the ball in my hands,” Rice said. “I’m ready for it. This is my fourth year. I have the experience now. If a play needs to be made, I have no problem taking that on, shouldering that load. As a rookie I can tell you I wasn’t ready for that. But now I am.”