Pierce played all 16 games in 2013, but ended up needing shoulder surgery in January to repair his rotator cuff. He also dealt with hamstring, toe and knee injuries last year, and had an awful second season after showing promise as a rookie.
The Ravens chose Pierce in the third round of the 2012 draft after seeing an impressive collegiate career at Temple. In college, he accumulated 3,750 yards with 53 touchdowns in only three years.
Pierce started off his rookie 2012 campaign well, serving as backup to Ravens' Ray Rice and posting 532 yards, one touchdown in 108 attempts. In postseason play for 2012, including the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII win, he helped Rice in all four games, rushing 39 times for 202 yards and 10 first downs.
Last year, Baltimore's rushing game dipped all around and fell flat across the board. Pierce seemed almost as if were run down and thoroughly exausted each week, averaging 2.9 yards per rush. He ended the year with 436 yards and two touchdowns with 152 attempts.
|Thibous via Wikimedia Commons|
23 year-old Pierce says he is getting better, and told the Baltimore Sun that he would be ready for training camp in July.
I think I'm right on schedule, honestly. I'm getting better, man. I'm doing rehab every day. I'm just grinding it outEven after acknowledging he gained roughly 10 to 15 pounds due to lack of activity after his surgery, Pierce says he is now just a few ounces over his listed playing weight of 228 pounds. "I was heavy," Pierce said. "I'm getting right now."
The Ravens really need Pierce to step up and return to his 2012 rookie form, especially if Rice faces some sort of suspension or setback. According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens were planning on adding another running back to the roster even before Rice had his issues, and they recognize the pressure is on. Time is running out for quality in free agency, and the Ravens are still going to need the NFL Draft to fill holes for other positions.
This upcoming season could be Pierce's chance to take over the starting position, as the load just may fall on his surgically repaired shoulder. He says he is ready, and with July only about three months away, he will get a chance to prove himself. With so many questions regarding the Ravens' running game, Pierce just may get a once in a lifetime shot that so many other young athletes desire. A chance to become a starting running back in the NFL.
On Twitter: @alewnes7