Ravens Q&A: Leach relishes the contact of a great block

Ravens fullback is known for brutal blocks, but he says he's more athletic than you might think

January 03, 2012|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, we bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player, coach or team executive to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is fullback Vonta Leach.

What does it mean to be an undrafted rookie in 2004 who has been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two years?

Any time your peers and the guys across from you recognize you for what you do, it's good. It's not only my award. It's the whole offensive line, the whole offensive side of the ball. We've got three people [running back Ray Rice, right guard Marshal Yanda and Leach] going, so that speaks highly about us. Our running game with me and Ray was able to do what our offensive line was able to do. So I think our whole offense should be proud.

People have said that the organization signed you in the offseason to be Ray's bodyguard. How do you feel about that label?

It means we're pretty good. Not only did they sign me to be that, but just to come here to a different city, a different team and live up to all the hype that you had coming in here, it was rewarding. And I expected myself to live up to those, too.

Ray has said publicly that the addition of Ricky Williams and you has helped him enjoy the best season of his career. What did those comments mean to you?

That means a lot. Ray Rice was already a good running back before I got here, and between me and him being on the same page and being able to see stuff through my eyes, a blocking back's eyes, we're just able to communicate. And it's not only me and him. Ricky is another veteran guy. We've been around this league a long time, and Ray, even though he's in his fourth year, still listens to us. So we're helping each other a lot.

How much conversation do you have with Ray on the sideline during a game about what you saw?

Me and Ray are always communicating, always talking. Sometimes I might see something different. Or he might see something different by the time he gets there because I'm five yards [behind quarterback Joe Flacco] and he's seven yards. So by the time he gets there, he might see something different. But at the end of the day, we're on the same page.

Can you describe the feeling of pancaking an opposing defender?

You're going up there, and you've got to block a linebacker or you've got a safety coming up and trying to fill the hole. You're there, and he's there, and it's just you and him in the hole. Everybody's eyes are on you because that's where the ball is going. so when you take him all the way down, it's like breaking his will. You can see your guys on the sideline getting hyped. You got a big run play just because of your block, and it just makes you feel good.

Do you have the top three of the best blocks you've delivered in your career?

I wouldn't necessarily say that I have a top three. I've made a lot of good blocks, and I've blocked for a lot of good running backs in my career. I've blocked for Ahman Green, Samkon Gado when Samkon hit the scene, Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, Ron Dayne and now Ray Rice. So I've blocked for a lot of good backs, and I'll let me record speak for itself.

Not even a No. 1 memory?

I wouldn't say I have a No. 1 memory either. I just like to go out there and do my job. I always like it when the running back has a good game and stuff. People always look at the stats. Well, I'm hardly ever going to be in the stat book, but when people look at the stats and see that a running back had 100 yards or 150 or 200, the people that know football are going to say, "Hey, his fullback must've had a good day."

Who is the toughest defender you've ever blocked? And you can't name anyone on the Ravens.

One of the toughest guys I've had to block was Junior Seau a couple times. Brian Uhrlacher, Lance Briggs. There's a lot of good linebackers out there.

What about those guys made them so tough to block?

Those guys are just as physical as I am, and they like contact. So they just come running downhill. So it's like a train wreck.

There was a scene from the NFL Network's "Sound FX" after the Thanksgiving night game against the San Francisco 49ers in which middle linebacker Patrick Willis pledged to return the favor after you blocked him. Was there any conversation between you two during the game?

No, he didn't say anything because he was pretty much on his back. I think I watched that. He said, "I'm going to get what's-his-name." I'm pretty sure he and the other linebackers knew my name after the game.

What's the best thing you've heard an opponent say after you blocked him?

Something like, "Oh, you got me this time," or "I'm going to get you next time." One guy we played against told me, "Man, you got me crippled for next week." When I got here into this division, some guys who we played against in my old division [the AFC South] said, "When the Texans didn't pay you, I was so happy. That way, I won't have to see you again." So that's a good compliment.

You've been more of an option on offense this season than in your previous eight-year career. How have you adjusted to having the ball in your hands?

The more you can do, the more valuable you are to the team. I'm thankful just to come here, but people said that I was just a run blocker, that I really couldn't help in the passing game or that I couldn't run the ball. So I think I'm more athletic than people give me credit for.

When a play in the huddle is going to you, what's that feeling like?

It makes you feel good. After you bang somebody probably 20 or 30 times, just give a dog a bone every once in a while. So it makes you feel good.


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