There may be storm clouds brewing for the Baltimore Ravens, as reports are circulating Tuesday stating that star running back Ray Rice, who gained over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season, may hold out of organized team activities if he does not receive a long-term contract extension.
Aaron Wilson of Scout.com broke the news, claiming that the 25-year-old ball-carrier, who has topped 1,000 yards rushing each of the past three seasons, will hold out of OTAs rather than report under the franchise tag, which will pay Rice $7.74 million in 2012.
Although Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice indicated today during the unveiling of the new Nike uniforms that he looks forward to attending offseason workouts, sources close to the situation stressed that Rice won't be reporting until he has a new contract.
Rice has been consistent in taking the high road when it comes to the negotiations, but sources emphasized that the versatile star runner has no plans to attend offseason workouts until a contract has been finalized.
As Wilson's story states, negotiations between the fifth-year pro and the Ravens have been fairly amicable, and Rice seemed optimistic that a deal would get done when asked about it at Nike's uniform unveiling Tuesday, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer.
"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."
However, Breer also points out that Rice didn't say with certainty that he would indeed be attending OTA's, and his somewhat evasive answer may lend credence to Wilson's sources.
"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 gotta 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."
This could all be a negotiating tactic that Rice decided to avail himself given that the eyes of the National Football League were all turned to Nike's event, which gave him a captive audience and a great opportunity to do some negotiating in the media. There's still a good possibility that an agreement will be reached in advance of April 16 that will allow Rice to get into camp on time.
However, just the idea of Rice potentially holding out should be enough to give Ravens brass serious pause given that the running back is the backbone of the Baltimore offense. The Ravens would be best served at this point to do whatever is necessary to lock up Ray Rice long-term before a minor problem becomes a major distraction that could derail the Ravens defense of their AFC North championship before it begins.