Growing up gaming and addicted to "NFL Blitz," Ray Rice used to do something that now, he says, is unthinkable.
"I used to play as the Steelers," Rice admits with a laugh, talking about how his current rival was once one of his favorite video game franchises. "I wanted to play as teams with the best offensive weapons, and back in the old 'Blitz,' Kordell (Stewart) was unstoppable.
"As a kid I remember going to an arcade down in my hometown and me and my boys used to go after it all day in 'NFL Blitz.' 'Blitz' is like the 'NBA Jam' of the NFL. It's exciting, it's a different kind of game, and I remember, even when I bought a copy to play at home, it still made me feel like I was back at the arcade. It's 7-on-7 football, players catching on fire ... all that good stuff you just don't find in other games."
These days, Rice still loves "NFL Blitz," only now it's his character who will burst into flames when the game is available via digital download in January.
Even better, Rice is in the running to be on the game's cover, with fans getting the opportunity to select between Baltimore's electrifying back, Patrick Willis of the 49ers, and Atlanta's Roddy White. Voting will take place live this Saturday night during the Spike TV Video Game Awards, with the winner being announced during the broadcast.
"Everybody wants to see an exciting little offensive player on the cover," says Rice. "No knock on the defensive guys, but I'm young, I'm up-and-coming, and it would be a perfect fit for me, especially since I grew up playing the game."
And while Rice is hoping for the lopsided victory, he's looking forward to one moment even more: the first time he sees his character blazing through the defense en fuego.
Says Rice: "I know it's going to happen pretty often, so I can't wait to see what I can do with the ball while I'm on fire.
"I'm a big video game player. I play 'Madden,' 'Call of Duty,' 'FIFA' ... anything that's challenging, that's what I want to play. I really want to get my hands on the new 'Blitz.' Football is a rough sport, and Blitz is more like the backyard, concrete version of the NFL."
Until "Blitz," Rice says that the Ravens will stay hooked on "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3."
"A lot of guys will call each other at night and jump on that 'Call of Duty,' online," he says. "We have a lot of competitive guys on the team, so when 'Blitz' come out, I know this is something we're all going to be playing online against each other. Besides, the Ravens are going to be the perfect 'Blitz' team. We blitz all the time, and the way our defense gets after the ball is freakin' amazing from a player's perspective. If they capture that in the game, we got it covered. Then on offense, throw me the ball in space and you're good. And if I have the flames, then I'm winning every time."
Another football game that keeps Rice busy these days is "Madden NFL 12."
"I really like what they did with the game this year," Rice says, admitting that the first thing he does when he gets the game is look at his ratings. "I always want to see what they think of me, and this year, I think they did a good job. I also like how when you play online, they change the ratings as the season goes, so if you're having a good year, you get rewarded and your ratings will be better in the end."
As for the dreaded "Madden" Curse and the chances of the tragic luck being passed to whoever wins the "NFL Blitz" cover vote, Rice says the bad vibes don't pass from game to game like that, even if he is starting to believe more and more in "Madden's" jinx.
"Blitz is totally different," he says. "I might have to become a believer now in the 'Madden' Curse after I've seen what happened this year (with Peyton Hillis). I never used to believe, but now I don't know what to think. I just know that it doesn't carry over to 'Blitz.'
"Buy the game, play as the Ravens and you'll see there's no 'Blitz' curse. Just play as our hard-hitting defense and give the ball to Ray Rice.
"That's the formula to win in the video game ... and in real life."