Veterans don't report until later in the week, but I already have my top five tough Ravens heading into the first practice of the season. When you play football, you want to play with guys you want to be in a foxhole with, or guys you want standing beside you in the alley at night in case a brawl breaks out.
I'd fight anybody with this group.
No. 1 on my list is nose tackle Haloti Ngata. He has muscles on top of his bulk. He looks like his skin is on too tight. Ngata is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, but if you cross him, good night, baby. A pro wrestling career might be in line when he retires.
"Haloti is 10-0 in fights in the NFL," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle. They say Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wakes up each morning and slaps himself a high five because Ngata is on his team.
No. 2 is defensive tackle Kelly Gregg. He is another nice guy, very easy-going, but Gregg is as strong as two oxes. He might be the strongest Raven. Gregg has a wrestling background, and uses his leverage on the field. Doesn't he look like he swallowed a suit case?
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson is No. 3. He trys to play that good-old-laid-back-country-boy role, but his teammates say he is as lethal as Chuck Norris. He has a switch in his head, and it goes off every Sunday afternoon.
Offensive tackle Marshal Yanda is No. 4, but could easily be No. 1. Word has it -- and there is truth to it -- that teammates bet Yanda last season that he couldn't handle getting hit by a taser gun. Not only did Yanda handle it once for three seconds, but two more times afterwards before finally collecting $1,500 from some of his teammates.
"You got to have those kind of crazy people on your team," said Rolle. "Yanda is nuts."
Defensive tackle Justin Bannan and center Jason Brown are tied at No. 5. Bannan has a strong tolerance for pain. Ooops. Forget that. They say Bannan doesn't even feel pain.
Before last season, Brown was the only offensive lineman on the Ravens in the last couple of seasons that would fight his defensive teammates in practice. Of course, he would get triple teammed by Ngata, Bannan and Gregg, but at least he didn't back down.
And now, Yanda has his back. For all of those who wondered why there were several fights in practice during the offseason, now you know why. The Ravens have quite a feisty group.
-- Mike Preston