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Ravens expect Ray Rice to return to Pro Bowl form in 2014

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Rice had the lowest statistical output of his career since his rookie season.

US PRESSWIRE

Superstition in various forms comes with sports, even at the coaching level.

After watching Ray Rice run to a disappointing season of just 660 yards and four touchdowns, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism that he'd see his star running back return to the form everyone is accustomed to seeing him at in 2014.

Newsome, at the State of the Ravens press conference, even went as far to say Rice would return to being named a Pro Bowl running back, before countering that prediction by acknowledging an unforeseen injury could ruin that — a remark that made coach John Harbaugh a tad anxious.

"Knock on wood, Ozzie," Harbaugh said, while drumming his knuckles on the table they were sitting at. "I want to mitigate that a little bit."

Of course, it was mostly a joke. Regardless of what anyone thinks when it comes to superstitions, things such as  knocking on wood, switching places on the couch or whatever the delusional fans in the Bud Light commercials do in their homes have nothing to do with the outcome of games. And of course, a past Super Bowl winning coach like Harbaugh understands this, too, as he was laughing while cracking the joke.

But the Ravens need to see the return of a running game in 2014, with their bell cow Ray Rice paving the way. Rice was the identity of the offense until Joe Flacco blew up in a big way during the 2012 postseason. But at the team's heart, running the ball is a focal point. The Harbaugh philosophy is that you win games on offense by establishing the run.

Running for a franchise low 1,328 yards in a season will more than likely have you watching the playoffs from home.

"Ray was one of the players that I sat down with last week," Newsome said. "I think Ray is committed to being as good a football player as he has been. We had great dialogue yesterday on what we think we can do to help Ray to get there. But that combination of us having an understanding and a willingness to provide some help to him, and him having a willingness to work his butt off, we will again have a Pro Bowl running back in Ray Rice next year."