Why Ray Rice will want to play Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There have been subtle hints pointing to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice playing Sunday at the Buffalo Bills.

Rice has practiced all week without any setbacks. He made himself available to reporters, which is something he didn't do last week when he sat out with the hip injury.

But here's why I believe Rice will make every effort to play -- the Bills have the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL. In fact, Buffalo is giving up 152.8 rushing yards per game since the start of 2009, the most in the NFL over that span.

Rice has been hit too many times behind the line of scrimmage this season to let Bernard Pierce gain over 100 yards against the Bills. While Rice has never seemed threatened by Pierce's increasing role in the offense, he also wants no doubts that he's the top playmaker in the backfield.

My biggest question isn't whether Rice plays -- it's how much he'll play. I'm skeptical whether the hip injury will allow him to get over 15 carries.

Asked if his workload will change, Rice said, "I don't think anything will change."

This has been one of Rice's slowest starts to a season. He's averaged 2.9 yards per carry and his longest run has been 14 yards.

Rice won't be at full strength against the Bills, but he said the status of his hip has improved significantly.

"When you get a week off and you are doing treatment, you're going to get better," Rice said. "Obviously when I found out what it was, when I was able to walk off on my own, I knew that was a good sign. You know me, I've dealt with aches, pains and sprains. When you talk about muscular stuff, they told me what it was. Let's be smart and, at the same time, it's not a life-and-death deal."