The Ravens are one tough bunch

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.

In 2009, he rebounded after tearing different ligaments in his knee. Yanda has gained iconic status in the locker room not from his excellent play, but because of repeated Tasers he took in his rookie season from two veterans.

Legend has it he was tased three times and walked away with a smile on his face.

"It was in my rookie year and Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister had $600 lying in the locker room for somebody who would take the tase," said Yanda, laughing. "I was a rookie and it was easy money. They shocked me twice but I think the battery was low and it wasn't that bad. It wouldn't have stopped a 15-year old in a rage.

"If it was a true Taser, the kind the police use, I would have went down. It was an itty, bitty shock, but easy money."

Yanda's equal on the defensive line is Haloti Ngata. He consumes anything from chicken to quarterbacks. When he played two games basically with one arm and one leg this season, it was like watching replays of Green Bay Ray Nitschke hobbling around on the field on one leg with the Packers in the 1960's.

If you need a body guard, Ngata is your guy.

"He will do whatever it takes to win, even if it is always not legal," Suggs said.

Suggs loves Pollard as a teammate too. Off the field, Pollard is a Bible toting, love everybody safety. On game days, he fights with everybody including head coach John Harbaugh.

"You don't see Christians with that type of aggression," Suggs said. "That boy can get angry sometimes."

Suggs took toughness to a new level this season. He returned from an Achilles rupture nearly a month faster than expected. He isn't his old self yet, but has played reasonably well in the five games he has played this season.

Suggs is basically the link from the old to the new. He was tutored by Reed and Lewis. It's almost comical now that whenever Reed plays a bad game he crushes receivers the next week. There is still a fire inside.

Lewis, who will be returning soon from a triceps injury, still can make plays. Once he is back on the field, he should be better than earlier in the season when he had young linemen in front of him that couldn't protect him.

"He is a great leader on the field every day, regardless if it is in practice or on game day," Yanda said. "He is an excellent motivator."

Said Leach: "We have a lot of different people with different personalities in this locker room. But on Sundays, you have to come out with a tough guy mentality, and we got a lot of them."

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