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Rice hopes to be at Ravens' offseason program despite contract

NEW YORK -- The Baltimore Ravens' offseason program kicks off April 16, and Ray Rice wants to be there as if it were any other year.

But it's not any other year -- Rice has received a franchise tag worth about $7.7 million, and he hasn't signed it yet. At an event unveiling Nike's new uniforms for NFL teams Tuesday, Rice said he hopes to report in Owings Mills, Md., on time with his teammates, though he wouldn't commit to doing so.

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"Me and my agent (Todd France) have been going over things," Rice told NFL Network. "We're going to figure out what's best going forward. Whatever decision we make, you got to protect yourself out there. I look forward to being there. As far as we know, we look forward to being there, maybe under some terms, whether I sign the tag or not. But I want to be there. I like to be around my guys."

The financial landscape at running back has been in flux this offseason, with Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Houston's Arian Foster receiving big money.

Recently, Chicago's Matt Forte, another running back who has received the franchise tag, took to Twitter to publicly vent his feelings about his contract status. Rice has been plugged in, too, while taking a less-aggressive stance than his Bears counterpart.

"I think progress is being made," Rice said. "It's one of those things. I didn't set the bar for what running backs get. Obviously, they got what they deserved. I played my contract out. I took the franchise tag. What it's going to do is buy time, and hopefully we come out with a number that's fair to both sides. But at the same time, the number was set. It wasn't set by me."

Rice also took exception to the idea that running backs represent a risky investment, given the rate at which they historically wear down. The four-year Ravens veteran has logged 1,069 touches (852 rushing attempts and 217 catches) -- an average of 22.3 per game -- over the past three years.

"Everybody's different," Rice said. "I'm 25 years old. I came in at 21. I'm 25, with no signs of slowing down. Yeah, do your research on the sport, but if you look at it now, the game's becoming safer. The running backs that played before us, they were taking the pounding. The pounding you take today is different."

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The Ravens have been in similar situations with linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, both of whom eventually scored bank-breaking deals. Rice has faith he'll find similar success, saying, "just knowing the Ravens, if they want to get a deal done, it'll get done."

And that's why he says he's trying to let the process play out, with France doing the heavy lifting.

"Being patient is key, but I do think I'm due," Rice said. "I'm up for one. And I played my contract out. I know I outplayed my contract. Y'all know I outplayed my contract. There was no hidden agenda. I was a second-round pick. Two Pro Bowls in four years. I outplayed my contract. There's no ifs, ands or buts about that. If you put me up there with the top five running backs in the league, I'm up there with the best."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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