BALTIMORE — Owen Daniels catches footballs with a hand that may be fractured. Still, Daniels has no doubt that he's not the toughest guy on the Houston Texans' offense.
Not a chance. Not with T.J. Yates at quarterback.
"He's so tough," Daniels. "I think he's one of the toughest guys I've ever played with. I seriously believe that."
It's almost been forgotten in the euphoria over the first playoff win in Texans' franchise history and the worry over facing a 12-4 Baltimore team at home where it's undefeated, but Yates is playing with a separated non-throwing shoulder. One of the reason it's been forgotten is because Yates does not talk about it. He refuses to use it as a reason for his passes sailing high against Cincinnati, refuses to acknowledge it as any type of crutch.
In an NFL in which Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is lauded for fighting off critics and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is held up as the ultimate example of perseverance because he never strangled Brett Favre, the real toughness of a fifth-round draft pick shouldn't be dismissed though.
Suggs and the rest of the Raven hard hitters will be targeting Yates' shoulder, trying to make the rookie squeal.
It's a big reason the Texans have confidence in this third stringer turned playoff starter. It also happens to the attribute Yates may need most against the Ravens defense.
Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and company thrive on beating up opposing quarterbacks. The more literally the better.
Before his foot got crushed in Jacksonville, Matt Schaub took a horrific pounding in Baltimore. The final tally for the Ravens consisted of four official sacks in a 15-point win, but you can add a good other 10 hits to that total.
This is what John Harbaugh's team does. Especially at home. M&T Bank Stadium has been a danger zone for opposing quarterbacks with the Ravens collecting 35 sacks in eight home games.
If you think the Texans are at a quarterback disadvantage when it's T.J. Yates vs. Joe Flacco, just imagine if it becomes Flacco vs. Jake Delhomme.
As Tebow is lauded for fighting off critics and Rodgers is held up as the ultimate example of perseverance, the toughness of Yates shouldn't be dismissed.
"Priority No. 1 is to protect T.J.," Texans left tackle Duane Brown says.
Suggs and the rest of the Raven hard hitters will be targeting Yates' shoulder Sunday afternoon, trying to make the rookie squeal. That's what a defense experienced in the playoffs does.
Yates figures to throw some high (he's done it in every game he's played). He might throw some wild. He might even throw some right to the Ravens.
But he'll pop right up and throw some more. That's a mark of toughness too.
It's rare for a quarterback — especially a young, inexperienced one — to be able to shake off bad plays as easily as Yates seems to do.
He throws an interception that only doesn't stay an interception because the Cincinnati Bengals defensive back drops the football one play. Then, the next two plays, Yates converts a crucial third down and unleashes a 40-yard touchdown bomb to Andre Johnson.
This is the type of toughness Suggs himself wonders if Tebow truly has in his makeup. The Ravens linebacker's emerged as one of the most vocal Tebow critics, infamously declaring, "With all due respect we don't need God on our sidelines. Once again God had to save Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos" after Denver backed into the playoffs off three straight losses.
Suggs obviously doesn't think Tebow is mentally tough enough to get more than one playoff win. What about Yates?
Tebow ruminates and prays. Yates forgets.
What near pick? Why bother to remember that?
"I've always been schooled to move on to the next play," Yates says. "Whether it was bad or good, move onto the next play."
This is something Yates' teammates saw almost immediately, something that's won them over. It's not like the Texans have a ton of choices with Schaub and Leinart both out, but Yates' cool has made everyone a believer that he's the best one they have got.
"I think that's what won the guys' respect — his toughness," Daniels says.
Now Suggs gets to measure that.