Haloti Ngata To Return, Ravens Expect Him Hungry

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Brandon Williams walked into the Ravens locker room after Sunday's game and quickly fired off a text message to teammate Haloti Ngata.

"Vacation's over," Williams wrote.

Ngata already returned to work Monday morning after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy, and the veteran defensive lineman can give the Ravens a significant boost heading into the postseason.

"I know he's hungry. I know he has a point to prove," outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. "And I know he's going to come back playing phenomenal."

Head Coach John Harbaugh liked what he saw from Ngata Monday morning.

"Haloti looked good," Harbaugh said. "He's in good shape. His weight is good. He's been training really hard from what he told me, and he looks that way. I think he's really appreciative of the opportunity to come back and make a little statement here in the postseason."

Ngata's return comes at the perfect time for the Ravens, who will open the postseason with a physical matchup against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Ravens also need help on the defensive front following the injury to rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan Sunday. Jernigan, who started in place of Ngata the last four weeks, left the Cleveland game with a foot injury and his status for future games is up in the air.

Even if Jernigan is out, the Ravens couldn't have a better replacement than a five-time Pro Bowler stepping back into the starting lineup.

"We get the big guy back," long-time teammate Terrell Suggs said. "It's great to get my brother back, to get one of the leaders of this team back. That's huge for us."

The Ravens knew they would get Ngata back this year by making the postseason, and they expect him to pick up where he left off.  

"I'm confident Haloti will be ready to go. That's his job, to be ready to go," Harbaugh said. "I'm confident he'll do it. He has done it before. He has been there, he knows what's at stake."

The Ravens managed to go 3-1 in Ngata's absence to make the postseason, and continued a stretch of shutting down opposing running games. Baltimore's defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 26-straight games, the longest streak in the NFL.

Ngata's play over the last two years is a big reason for that streak. And the nine-year veteran was having one of his best seasons in recent years before getting suspended. He has 32 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and seven passes defensed this year.

He also does much of the dirty work that never shows up in the stat sheet, like gobbling up double teams and collapsing the pocket.

"He's a great player. He's a future Hall of Famer in my book," Williams said. "The guy is amazing. We're just ready to have him back. The defensive line is happy. The whole defense is happy. The whole team is happy, actually."

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