Ravens Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach already knows what to expect Sunday against Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing: plenty of head-knocking collisions.
Like Leach, Cushing is an aggressive player who doesn't shy away from contact.
Cushing is healthy after returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last season, and is the Texans' leading tackler through two games.
"Cushing is another high-motor guy who can play," Leach said. "He's back healthy and playing pretty good. We look forward to the challenge. Cushing is a good linebacker. I've played with and against him, so I know what he's capable of."
Cushing's play against the Ravens' running game, especially with Bernard Pierce preparing for his first NFL start as running back Ray Rice deals with a left hip flexor strain, figures to be a pivotal matchup.
"He's a nice linebacker," Pierce said. "He's physical, he's downhill. He moves around the field well. I'm going to have to make sure to keep an eye out for him on Sunday.
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The Texans signed Cushing to a six-year, $55.643 million contract extension this season that includes $21 million in guaranteed money with a $9 million signing bonus.
"He's a physical guy, a leader on their team," Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda said. "He's an instinctive guy who likes to get after it."
The 6-foot-3, 249-pound Cushing has 24 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for losses and one interception.
He returned an interception by Philip Rivers 18 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 31-28 victory. Cushing has eight career interceptions.
"Brian's a force in the middle, run and pass, and pass coverage and pass rush," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "When he blitzes and he brings it up the middle, he's a force to be reckoned with. He's just such a powerful, strong, explosive guy."