Is Ravens' Rookie Bernard Pierce The Next Adrian Peterson?

Robert Klemko,


Rookie ran for 523 yards despite playing behind Ray Rice in 2012

NEW ORLEANS — The next Adrian Peterson is playing in Super Bowl XLVII.

That’s if you believe Wilbert Montgomery, former NFL running back and current Baltimore Ravens running backs coach.

It’s not Ravens running back Ray Rice or the San Francisco 49ers’ Frank Gore, already stars in their own right. Montgomery, who coached Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson as a member of the St. Louis Rams staff, says rookie running back Bernard Pierce has the potential to be a phenomenal every-down runner in the mold of Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings bruiser.

“Pierce is my dark horse,” Montgomery says. “A year from now, everybody is going to want to know who he is. Right now, he’s the poor man’s Adrian Peterson.”

How Pierce went from third-round pick to comparisons with the man who finished 9 yards shy of breaking the single-season rushing record is anyone’s guess. Pierce ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds at the scouting combine after rushing for 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior at Temple. But competition wasn’t so stiff for the Owls, and Pierce had a history of nagging injuries with one well-reported concussion. And the staff of Temple’s first-year head coach, Steve Addazio, trashed Pierce on the way out, Montgomery says.

“I think he slipped in the draft because they wanted him to come back for another season,” Montgomery says. “And when he said he was done, they were disappointed. They didn’t have a lot of great things to say about him character-wise. Right now, the things they said have been total false information. He’s been great.”

Montgomery was the first in the Ravens organization to see through the misinformation.

“When we’re back at the combine,” says Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, “Wilbert always takes the opportunity to go down on the field when the running backs are working because he played the game. He came back and he said, ‘I’m impressed with this guy, Pierce.’ ”

The Ravens dealt t their 91st and 164th overall picks to move up seven spots in order to draft Pierce, despite already having a Pro Bowler in Rice. Pierce went on to contribute 532 rushing yards at 4.9 yards per carry in 2012 as Rice’s backup. He’s been grateful for the opportunity to learn from Rice, the shorter, shiftier runner.

“I learned a lot from Ray Rice: getting in the playbook, keeping healthy, weight room. A lot of credit goes to him,” Pierce says. “I like that I’m behind a veteran who can teach me.”

The 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce played in all 16 games this season with a single-game best of 123 rushing yards in a Week 16 rout of the New York Giants. Montgomery says that would have been a typical outing for Pierce if he wasn’t stuck behind Rice. While Pierce is dealing with a nagging knee injury leading up to Sunday’s game, he says he’s ready to go and figures to play a key role as the Ravens try to crack the 49ers’ fourth-ranked run defense.

“If we didn’t have Ray Rice, (Martin) probably would have had a very similar year as (Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie) Doug Martin,” Montgomery says.

“You’d like to see what he would have done if he was able to triple those carries he had. The arrow is so high and going up on this guy, it’s unbelievable.”