Friday, August 03, 2012

Yanda proves his toughness on the line

By Steven Petrella

July 31, 2012

Leading up to the Ravens' Week 17 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals last season, Marshal Yanda's ribs were in so much pain he couldn't bend over to put on his socks and shoes.

Yanda found a way to block out the pain, like he has throughout his career as he enters his sixth NFL season. The discomfort Yanda felt months ago after he suffered bruised ribs Week 16 against Cleveland, was just a memory on Tuesday as he participated in training camp. When asked to reflect on playing through the pain, Yanda chose to focus on the present, saying he is 100 percent.

The right guard, who also had emergency calf surgery in December, has shown how valuable his toughness can be for the team's offensive line.

"Injuries, they happen, you just gotta grind through them," Yanda said . "You try to play as best you can to help the team win, and as long as they won't be detrimental down the road, you have to take them in stride."

Yanda has started all 16 games each of the last two seasons and earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season after helping running back Ray Rice rush for a career-high 1,364 yards.

From farming roots, Yanda played college ball in his home state at the University of Iowa, which he said always seems to churn out hard-nosed, tough pros.

"[Toughness] came from my parents and growing up on a farm," Yanda said. "Then when I went to college, they kinda drill it into you there, and I liked that anyway. So I got it from a farm and Iowa."

Despite his thrashing of opposing defenses, there's a much lighter and more easy-going side to the 6-foot-3, 315-pound lineman.

Yanda can often be seen joking around with teammates during practice, but acknowledges he has to toe a fine line between having fun and not taking his work seriously.

"Obviously, you want to have fun, but you don't wanna be joking around too much," Yanda said. "It's practice, and since we gotta do it anyway, there's no reason to be miserable and hate it like a lot of guys do."

Leadership and toughness have made Yanda one of the NFL's best offensive lineman, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. While he has become a staple and one of the league's toughest men to face in the trenches,the rest of Baltimore's line still has plenty of questions this preseason.

Yanda is one of just two linemen back at the same position this season — Ben Grubbs left for New Orleans, Bryant McKinnie's physical status is unknown, and Michael Oher flipped from the right side to the left. Matt Birk, although he didn't practice Tuesday, will return at center, Bobbie Williams is expected to fill Grubbs' void at left guard, and Jah Reid has found himself in Oher's old spot.

"No matter what, you have to have certain players that you can rely on," Harbaugh said. "And he's one of our guys. And the more of those guys you have, the better."

Yanda knows that a starting job in the NFL is never safe, and despite the consistency he has shown his previous five years , he wants to keep improving.

The Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro (2011) selections were goals of his, Yanda said. But he knows that a player is only as good as their next performance.

"You're either going forward or backward, you can't stay the same," Yanda said. "So I want to keep getting better or I'll go the other way and won't be playing."

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