The Ravens are one tough bunch

Anquan Boldin

Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin pushes by two Steelers defenders. (November 29, 2012)

The Ravens have been lucky, received divine intervention and may be one of the worst 9-2 teams in NFL history, but the one characteristic that stands out about this team is toughness.

The Ravens have some downright ornery, nasty, intimidating, in-your- face players who are can become out of control at times.

Psychos, some people call them.

If you want to make compare this team to any of the great Ravens teams in the past, just look at the number of tough guys on the roster.

In 2000, the Ravens had Jamal Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Edwin Mulitalo, Rob Burnett , Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Michael McCrary, Ray Lewis and Chris McAlister.

This year, they have Lewis, Ray Rice, Vonta Leach, Marshal Yanda, Anquan Boldin, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed.

Even quarterback Joe Flacco is tough and durable.

"Yeah, he's a tough dude," said Yanda, of Flacco who has taken a beating the last five years and hasn't missed a game. "I've seen him take some vicious shots. Football is a really, really violent game, and quite often the quarterback is on the end of those hits. Sometimes we get beat one on one, or sometimes the other team brings more than we can block. There are times when you just go ehhh when he gets hit like that.

"I see other quarterbacks on Sunday get in offensive linemen's face when they get beat but Joe never says anything. He doesn't whine or cry. He just says let's go and I got your back."

Football is a rough sport and you'd think every player is tough, but the good teams have more of those players than the others. The Houston Texans are physical and so is Pittsburgh, and in the NFC the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers appear to have the hardest hitters.

The Ravens have as many as any of them.

"I think if you go into the Pittsburgh draft room, you will find that they draft physical players," Yanda said. "We're very similar and we want to get after people on Sundays."

Leach said: "I've been around for a while and been around a lot of great teams and great people, and this is the toughest team I've ever been around. We just have that never quit, never say die attitude. We bring that approach every week, every day."

That's part of the reason the Ravens have won five games by three points or less. It's not all about luck. It's also about having some nasty, mean crusty guys who don't give a damn and never panic.

There are only a few players like Rice who could have turned that short pass from Flacco into a 30-yard gain late in the fourth quarter Sunday against San Diego.

"He is the toughest little man in the NFL," Leach said. "The play he made the other day was one of the greatest ever. If someone had told me we would get 30 yards on a fourth-and-29 I would say, 'You have to be kidding me.'"

Leach, of course, might be the best lead blocker in the NFL and probably leads the league in violent collisions. One of the best blocks, though, on the Rice play was delivered by Boldin, another player with an edge.

Boldin has a great work ethic but is not very social. He often answers questions in one word sentences, and seldom smiles in the locker room. He has played 10 seasons in the NFL, and survives now basically because of two reasons: great hands and attitude.

He hates losing more than he hates reporters.

The meanest guy on the offense might be Yanda at right guard. He played four games last season with bruised ribs and played two games in the postseason with serious calf problems.

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