Despite an injury-plagued last few seasons in Denver -- and no indication that he still was a dominant defensive end -- Pryce played 2006 like it was 1999, tying his career high in sacks (13). In addition to rediscovering his pass-rushing powers, Pryce was also stout against the run, something nobody expected. So was the 2006 season a legit resurgence, or just a blip on the radar?
"Actually, I feel better, stronger than I was last year," Pryce said. "I ran a 4.5 [-second] 40 this offseason, and I'm pretty excited about that."A couple of things: first, players would never say anything other than some variation of "I feel great this year," so I take Pryce's comments with a grain of salt. Second, there's no way in hell a 32-year-old, 6'5", 285-pound defensive end ran a 4.5-forty. Zero. Maybe he ran 40 yards faster than he had in recent years, but it took him more than four and a half seconds to do it.
But that's not the point. He's healthy, feels great, and is playing on one of the league's best defenses. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will need a 2006 effort from Pryce in 2007 if simply to help make up for Adalius Thomas, the all-everything defender who now plays for the Patriots. Honestly, I don't think the Ravens will miss Thomas all that much. Not because he's overrated -- far from it ... in fact, until last season, he was one of the league's most underrated players -- but because Baltimore has so many great defensive players that I think, collectively, they'll more than make up for it ... assuming everybody remains relatively healthy. We'll see, I guess.