Last year there was a much different atmosphere in the locker room for Ray Rice. Rice was granted the starting role at tail back for the Baltimore Ravens over two of his team mates that wanted the position badly. It was hard for his team mates to argue their case publicly because Rice had been so productive on the field. You just could not justify sitting him when he does everything so well.
This still did not keep his back ups from causing controversy for the remaining carries behind Rice. Rays' fullback Le'Ron McClain even made t-shirts asking for more carries. Willis McGahee kept pretty much to himself about the whole thing but it was no secret he desired to be the starter. During all this Ray Rice was trying to grow and get better as an NFL running back. Competition is always good for professional athletes but there comes a point when a young man has done all he can do on his own and he needs support and guidance from those around him.
This year Rice came into the season as the only back considered to start for Baltimore. The Ravens have surrounded him with Vonta Leach, the best fullback in the game and Ricky Williams, a guy who has been humbled by the game and still has a lot of gas left in the tank. I'm sure when Ozzie Newsome brought in these two he envisioned Leach giving the offense a more smash mouth attitude and Williams knowing his role as the secondary back to Rice and sharing his NFL wisdom with the young star. However I can not imagine even Newsome would have imagined it would work out this well. Vonta is not only making Rice better but he has become as vocal and physical leader on the offense. Leachs' physical style is contagious and it makes the Ravens better.
Vonta Leach is not a player that is used to the spot light. Before this year Leach only had three rushing attempts for his career, none since 2008. Vonta has been asked to carry the ball quite a bit for the Ravens as his role has expanded from years past. He has already had 11 carries this year and 11 carries is just fine with him. In fact you never can tell if Leach is happy to carry the ball at all. He shows the same emotion after running for a first down as he does after blocking for a one yard gain on first and 10. That is one of the things that makes him such a great addition to this team and the highly emotional Rice. Leach and Rice took a bit to get on the same page but now that they are and Ricky Williams is happy to contribute from the role he is in, the running game can be dominant. The rest of the offense can build around this.
Ricky Williams has come to Baltimore with exactly the right attitude as well. He did not complain when he did not get many carries early in the season and he has not complained as his carries have increased. His running style is a perfect compliment to the shifty rice as Williams would rather run over than around a defender these days. These two have made life much easier on Ray Rice and it shows. Rice and Leach truly work together and challenge each other to get better. Williams is at the point in his career where all he wants is a championship and he knows that this may be the best chance he has to get one
So if Baltimore can continue to rely on Rice, Leach and the running game they will be hard to beat. Rice now has the veteran leadership around him he will need to continue to grow as one of the games elite. Baltimore stuck gold in the Leach signing, hopefully they can follow him down the path to glory1