‘Just Another Game’ For Leach

Facing their former Houston mates, FB Vonta Leach and S Bernard Pollard are all business.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Thursday, October 13th, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 6 vs Texans

It speaks to Vonta Leach’s personality.

Despite reporter after reporter asking the Ravens’ fullback about his emotions heading into Sunday’s meeting with his former Houston Texans team, about how much he’s looking to hit them, how much he’s looking to prove that they let the wrong guy go, Leach just shook his head and literally sighed.

The hard-nosed Leach has moved on, both physically and, now quite obviously, mentally, from his former team. He’s a Raven, and that means winning this Sunday is the only thing on his mind.

“It’s no different than any other game for me,” Leach said. “I’m not studying film any more than I normally would. I’m not beating my head against the wall.”

In one way, it’s not surprising that Leach doesn’t have too many emotional ties. He has moved into four different locker rooms in eight years.

The former undrafted free agent spent his first two seasons in Green Bay. In 2006, he bounced between the Packers, New Orleans Saints and finally landed with the Houston Texans.

On the other hand, Houston is where Leach’s career took off.

He started 12 games in each 2007 and 2008, got his first carries and his first touchdowns. Last year, it all came together blocking for the NFL’s leading rusher, Arian Foster, and Leach was named to his first Pro Bowl.

But when Leach’s contract ran out at the end of last year, the Texans had tough decisions to make. Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that he wanted to keep Leach, but at the end of the day, Houston didn’t make as competitive an offer as Baltimore.

Less than a week after the lockout ended, the Ravens showed their interest and scooped him up with a three-year deal.

“There were no hard feelings when I left there,” Leach said. “I would say that obviously they had other needs and I wasn’t important enough for the team. I wasn’t high enough on the totem pole. I was the odd man out. You can’t pay everybody.”

Leach is happy with how it all turned out.

“I liked it there,” he said. “But I think here is a better fit for me. Here we use the fullback and we like the fullback.”

Leach instantly fit in just by virtue of the kind of player he is, someone who takes pleasure in physically punishing his opponent. The Ravens signed him to consistently bang heads and open up holes for running back Ray Rice, something he has done without fail.

The Ravens have gotten more than just that though. Leach also seamlessly fit into the locker room, says his teammates and coach.

“He’s a character guy who’s also quite the character, we’ve come to find,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve had lots of laughs. He’s on me all the time about being too nervous and stuff like that.”

“He’s a perfect fit,” running back Ray Rice added.

“He came in a leader. He’s one of the guys that we look to. When things get going, you’ve got to have somebody speak up. I’ve been one of the guys, Anquan [Boldin] is one of the guys, Joe [Flacco] is one of the guys, Mike [Oher], us small group of leaders have to, when things get rough, we have to put this thing together. And Vonta fit right in that mix. He’ll be the first to grab a group, put us together on the sideline, put us together in meetings, whatever.”

Leach isn’t the only Raven facing his former team. Safety Bernard Pollard also wasn’t re-signed by the Texans this past offseason after spending the last two years as their starting safety. It was reportedly because of troubles in pass coverage.

The Texans know Pollard well and could look to attack him in the passing game.

“Can he hang with me?” Houston tight end Owen Daniels said. “He’ll probably get the assignment to cover me. We’ll see. It’ll be fun.”

Pollard has fit in with the Ravens, drawing praise for his physical play and winning a starting job.
Both Pollard and Leach will be Ravens team captains before the game, Harbaugh said. But don’t expect too much beyond the usual handshakes.

“It’s not about me. This game is bigger than me,” Pollard said. “We want to go for a win and Houston is in the way. … I couldn’t care less about who they are.”

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