Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
Rice made no promises after taking part in the Ravens practices this week on a limited basis. But he expressed guarded optimism about a strained hip flexor muscle that kept him out of last week’s game.
“Barring setbacks, there’s a chance I could be out there on Sunday,” Rice told the Baltimore Sun. “I have to warm up and see how it feels and let coaches make the decision for me.”
Rice is a three-time Pro Bowler who has posted four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He had league-best 2,068 scrimmage yards in 2011. He had 1,621 scrimmage yards last year.
Said coach John Harbaugh: “We’re hoping he’ll get there. He’s got a better chance than he had last week. He has practiced, to an extent, throughout the course of the week, and we’ll know on Sunday. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”
The Ravens will be without starting receiver Jacoby Jones (knee). His replacement, Marlon Brown, has had a sore neck but is probable. Other questionable Ravens include starting defensive end Chris Canty (groin) and receiver Brandon Stokley (groin). Backup nose tackle Terrence Cody (knee) and backup center Ryan Jensen (foot) are doutbtful.
With Leodis McKelvin out last week, the Bills used Jim Leonhard as punt returner. Leonhard has returned 99 punts in his NFL career. In 2008, he ranked seventh in the NFL with an 11.6-yard average. In 2010 he averaged a healthy 11.3 yards.
If the Bills want to go deep into the roster – very deep – for punt return prospects, they could consider 325-pound defensive tackle Alan Branch. As a prep player for Cibola High in Albuquerque, N.M., Branch returned five punts for touchdowns. His primary position was on the defensive line but he also played some tight end and running back.
“I was the only guy able to catch the punts back in the day, so coach put me back there,” Branch said. “I also played running back, too. I weighed 315.”
Branch said he has informed special teams coordinator Danny Crossman of his prowess as a youngster.
“I told him, man, but I don’t think he wants to put me back there,” Branch said. “I told him I could give him a guaranteed 5 yards every time.”
McKelvin and safety Jairus Byrd both are listed as questionable. Said coach Doug Marrone on McKelvin: “He looked good out here today but again, we’re practicing. Really, that will be a game-time decision. We’ll bring him here early and work him out.”
Listed as probable are: C.J. Spiller (quadriceps), Stevie Johnson (hamstring), Kraig Urbik (knee), Doug Legursky (knee), Mario Williams (ankle), Marcell Dareus (ankle) and Kyle Williams (Achilles). Marrone on Legursky: “He’s working his way back day-to-day. He’s still not at 100 percent.”