I don't think this qualifies as "Best Shape of His Life" territory, but Ravens running back Ray Rice will definitely be in better shape this season. His trainer, Kyle Jakobe, recently told the Carroll County Times that Rice has already lost 15 pounds in the two months since the season ended, is down to about 210 pounds and wants to drop a few more.
"He was definitely too heavy last year," Jakobe said of Rice. "He definitely came back this year and said, 'I feel heavy. I feel bloated. I don't feel like I'm moving as well. I could feel it in my body. I felt like my body was working too hard to make the same movements it made in previous years.'"
Jakobe also talked about how the hip flexor injury that Rice suffered in Week 2 put him in a lot of pain for the rest of the season. That injury and the weight ostensibly played a major role in Rice recording a career low of 3.1 per carry. Excluding Rice's 2008 rookie year, he put career worsts across the board in 2013.
The last sentence of that quote catches my eye:
"I felt like my body was working too hard to make the same movements in previous years."
I'm sure the reduced weight can help in that area, but you know what that can also be attributed to? Old age. Now, Rice is just 27 years old, so he's nowhere near being technically old. But he doesn't exactly have a normal job; the NFL and the punishment it unleashes upon running backs have a ruthless way of accelerating anyone's physical clock. So, pardon me if I don't believe that we will see the fantasy-studly Ray Rice of old return in 2014 just because he's cut some fat and his hip has healed. Rice has averaged 332 touches per year since the start of 2009. Maybe he is just simply beginning to wear down.