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Many obstacles stand in Rice's path to a comeback

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Ray Rice
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Many obstacles stand in Rice's path to a comeback
OWINGS MILLS, MD - MAY 23: Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens pauses while addressing a news conference with his wife Janay at the Ravens training center on May 23, 2014 in Owings Mills, Maryland. Rice spoke publicly for the first time since facing felony assault charges stemming from a February incident involving Janay at an Atlantic City casino. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Ravens running back Ray Rice and his wife Janay made statements to the news media May 5, 2014, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino. On Monday, Sept. 9, 2014, Rice was let go from the Baltimore Ravens after a video surfaced from TMZ showing the incident. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 16: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens sits on the bench against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their preseason game at AT&T Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 16: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens smiles during warm ups before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OWINGS MILLS, MD - MAY 23: Baltimore Ravens assistant director of public relations Patrick M. Gleason holds the door as running back Ray Rice enter a news conference followed by his wife Janay Rice and Ravens team President Dick Cass at the Ravens training center on May 23, 2014 in Owings Mills, Maryland. Rice spoke publicly for the first time since facing felony assault charges stemming from a February incident involving Janay at an Atlantic City casino. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JULY 17: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sits in the crowd during the the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Levi Stadium on July 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Maine Governor Paul LePage in his office at the State House in Augusta. LePage, who was beaten by his father when he was young and has made domestic abuse prevention and awareness a priority of his administration, wrote a scathing letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the controversial two-game suspension levied on Ray Rice after a domestic incident involving his wife at a N.J. hotel.
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By DAVID GINSBURG

BALTIMORE (AP) - If Bernard Pierce keeps running as impressively as he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he soon might carve out his own identity.

For now, the third-year running back carries the label of the man who replaced Ray Rice.

Starting for a second straight game, Pierce ran for 96 yards on 22 carries to help the Baltimore Ravens beat the Steelers 26-6.

The job is Pierce's to lose. Rice was originally serving a two-game suspension for domestic violence, but the Ravens released him Monday after a video surfaced showing him hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator last February.

Averaging 4.4 yards per carry, Pierce redeemed himself for a poor showing in the opener against Cincinnati, when he gained just 14 yards on nine carries and was pulled after losing a fumble.

"Bernard bounced back. That shows you what he's made of, that shows you his mettle a little bit," coach John Harbaugh said.

Said Pierce: "What a difference from last week. I knew I was going to get called on, and I was really focused to correct the mistakes I made from last week."

Before this season, Pierce had only one NFL start over two years since being picked third in the NFL draft out of Temple. That doesn't mean his career was not without its highlights: He ran for 123 yards against the Giants in December of his rookie season and had 103 yards in a playoff game against Indianapolis.

Last year, Pierce was slowed by injury but still had 436 yards rushing and 20 catches for 104 yards.

Those numbers should improve significantly this year, now that he's No. 1.

Pierce provided balance to an attack that against Cincinnati relied far too heavily on the pass. Joe Flacco threw 62 times in a 23-16 defeat.

In this one, the Ravens ran 36 times and Flacco threw 29 passes. In the fourth quarter alone, Pierce gained 54 yards on eight attempts.

"As the game went on and we got that lead, it allowed us to continue to run the ball," Flacco said. "That's really when your yardage goes up. When your carries can go up, when you can get the lead late in the game, you really start to pound them. That's what we were able to do."

Harbaugh said of Pierce: "He finished off in the fourth quarter pretty good."

Pierce would rather have beat out Rice on the field than take his job under these circumstances, so this situation is far from ideal.

"He's a friend first before a player," Pierce said. "I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm not saying it's right, but everybody makes mistakes. Eventually everything will brush over."

As a reward for playing on a short work-week, the Ravens are off until Monday. Their next game is at Cleveland on Sept. 21.

Goodell Calls on Ex-FBI Head to Investigate Ray Rice Video
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