By Mike Preston
The Baltimore Sun
1:22 PM EDT, June 11, 2013
The Ravens released fullback Vonta Leach and I understand the logic. The Ravens have been under the salary cap gun since winning the Super Bowl in February, and they will save approximately $3 million by cutting Leach.
My only problem with letting Leach go is that the Ravens lack tough guys. In the NFL, you can’t win titles without tough guys, players who are physical and can give a team instant emotion. The Ravens have had those types of players since 2000, going back to Michael McCrary, Rob Burnett, Tony Siragusa, Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis and Ray Lewis.
The Ravens had those types of players on the roster last season, but most of them are gone. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis retired. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded. Safety Bernard Pollard was cut. Even safety Ed Reed was a tough guy. He couldn’t tackle like he used to, but Reed played many games over the past two years despite injuries.
They weren’t just playmakers, but guys who played through injuries, guys who worked hard during the offseason, and guys practiced as hard as they played.
They made a difference because they were tough guys. That has been Baltimore’s identity for the past 13 years and a trademark of the AFC North.
I understand why some of these guys weren’t allowed to come back. At times, they were disruptive and were capable of causing dissention if allowed. But Leach was never like that. He might get frustrated on the sidelines because he didn’t believe the Ravens were running enough, but he was a total team player. Other players respected him in the locker room, and on game days, Leach always brought his 'A' game. He was running back Ray Rice’s bodyguard, and one of the two or three best fullbacks in the NFL.
As a lead blocker, Leach would excite his teammates and the fans with some vicious blocks. I don’t see him staying on the free agent market long, even though fullbacks have become somewhat obsolete because the NFL has gone pass happy.
The Ravens drafted Harvard’s Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round in April. He has good hands and size, but the Ravens don’t know if he can become as good of a lead blocker as Leach. Maybe this is the sign of things to come. The Ravens might want to open up the offense more with quarterback Joe Flacco, and use Juszczyk as an H-back and in the slot.
But what about short-yardage situations?
The Ravens have struggled in that area during the past two seasons, and it might get worse without Leach.
It’s hard seeing this guy leave. The NFL is about being physical and intimidating. With the crew they had last year, the Ravens put fear in a lot of teams because they had tough guys.
They still have some left in Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda and Terrell Suggs, but they lost a big one today.
They don’t come much tougher than Vonta Leach.
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