Notes: Samari's Return Well-Timed

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If there ever was a good time for Samari Rolle's return to the field, this weekend's matchup with the Houston Texans would be one of them.

The Ravens' fourth-ranked pass defense will get one of its top playmakers back, as Rolle is expected to return from a neck surgery that kept him out of the past six games.

And that's just fine for Baltimore, as the unit will have its hands full with "man-child" wideout Andre Johnson.

"If there was a receiver that I was worried about or that really raises some concern and raises my eyebrows, it's definitely this one," linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Johnson. "He's the man-child. When he's out there playing and he's at the peak of his game, he's a man playing with boys.

"Definitely, a good defense is going to show up down there on Sunday, or he's going to show why they call him the man-child."

Johnson is the Texans' overwhelming leader in receiving with 60 catches for 834 yards and three touchdowns. The former University of Miami standout is also leading the NFL by averaging a gaudy 104.3 yards per game.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Johnson has the prototypical size and speed paired with toughness and soft hands.

One look at the imposing receiver on the field, and it's easy to see why the Ravens are hoping to have all available for use against him, especially Rolle, a Pro Bowler in his own right.

"It's always good to have all your good players back," stated head coach John Harbaugh. "Samari Rolle is a tremendous corner. It adds one more link into our chain, so we're excited to have him back. He's going to make us better."

The road to recovery has not been easy for Rolle. A relatively healthy player throughout his 11-year career, he had never missed more than five games in a campaign before being limited to only six contests in 2007.

That year, he endured a largely private battle with epilepsy, followed by a late-season shoulder injury that landed him on Injured Reserve.

Rolle was confident coming back this season and even started the first two games before a bulging disc in his neck led him to surgery. Such determination is another reason why Rolle is as respected as any veteran in the Ravens' locker room.

"He's a special person," said defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. "There's no doubt about that. He's our kind of guy, and he cares about his teammates.

"He knows this is a rough game and injuries happen to a lot of players. Really, durability is so important in this league, and a guy that gets himself back on the field and is ready to go, it is amazing. With the epilepsy and all that stuff aside, he is an amazing guy. I can't wait to see him out there."

Having Rolle in the lineup will add some senior leadership to a defensive backfield that has featured new Ravens Jim LeonhardFabian Washington and Frank Walker in place of Rolle, Chris McAlister (knee) and Dawan Landry (neck).

The offseason acquisitions have performed ably, however. Even though Ed Reed was the secondary's only tenured Raven, Baltimore has only allowed 173.8 passing yards per game.

"Anytime you get a great player like Samari back, you feel great about it," Ryan explained. I think the guys really stepped up in his place and in Chris' place. They did a great job for us, and that can only help your football team when you get a starter back."

"I think that's a testament to the depth that we have in our room now," Rolle said of the reserves maintaining a high performance level. "Last year, we didn't have that type of depth. This year, we've got depth."

And everyone will be tested by Johnson, who is the centerpiece of the NFL's fifth-best aerial attack, which averages 262.5 yards per contest.

"He's the best receiver in the league right now, hands down," Rolle said. "No weaknesses – strong, tough, physical, good hands, good routes, and they get him the ball."

Luckily, the Ravens are getting one of their best corners back.

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