After fumbling twice in the team’s wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts, Rice defiantly said that he wasn’t a fumbler and that it wouldn’t happen again. It did three games later, in the second half of the Super Bowl, but the Ravens defense bailed Rice out after the turnover by holding the San Francisco 49ers to a field goal.
The lost fumble was forgotten after the Ravens held off the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, but the turnovers in the playoffs are still fresh on the mind of one NFL Network analyst who knows a thing or two about fumbling.
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In a segment in which two analysts debated “which superstar will take a step back in 2013,” former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb choose Rice, a three-time Pro Bowl back, as his pick. His reasoning was that he liked what he saw from Ravens running back Bernard Pierce as a rookie, but he also said that Rice “fumbled the football entirely too much last year.”
“Ray Rice we know is a Pro Bowler that can make big plays for you, but he has a tendency of fumbling the ball entirely too much,” said McNabb, who fumbled 95 times in his NFL career. “So expect for Bernard Pierce to really step up and be that guy.”
After the win over the Colts, I explored the topic of whether Rice was a fumbler, and Rice certainly didn’t appreciate my line of questioning. Rice fumbled just once during the regular season and has done it just seven times during his five regular seasons, losing six of them. He averaged one fumble every 218 regular-season touches, which is very secure.
"You play the regular season, that's what you get paid for," he said. "But in the playoffs, you are building a legacy. Obviously, I want to be a guy that's remembered for his playoff play."
And in his playoff career, Rice has fumbled six times, including the three he lost in four playoff games this winter. That’s obviously what McNabb remembered about his playoff performance.
I’m guessing Rice, who has said all the right things this offseason when answering questions about how Pierce will affect his role, won’t be thrilled when he gets wind of McNabb’s comments about his “tendency of fumbling the ball entirely too much.” But it’s up to Rice to prove on the field this season that his ball security issues in the playoffs were just a fluke.