Leach spent five years in Houston, dutifully paving holes for a variety of running backs that benefitted greatly from the fullback's unselfish willingness to sacrifice his body. But the Texans balked this summer at the prospect of spending big money to bring Leach back, so the 2010 Pro Bowl star signed an $11 million, three-year deal with Baltimore.
And so, when the Ravens host the Texans on Sunday, Leach will be going up against players with whom he forged tight friendships over the past several years.
"It's going to be fun and weird," Leach said. "I'm going to have mixed emotions leading up to the game and during the game. But hey, we're all professionals. I want to win, and when the game starts, it's on."
A victory will enable Baltimore to stay alone atop the AFC North. That's what is important to Leach, rather than revenge or the desire to prove the Texans were silly to let him walk.
"Yeah, I'm playing against the guys I've been in the locker room with for five years, but I don't think I left on a bad note," he said. "I was happy, they were happy. It was just one of those situations where they had other parties they had to take care of, and I was the odd man out."
Rice, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, is delighted to step in line behind Leach -- on the field and in the locker room.
"He's the perfect fit," Rice said. "He came in a leader. He'll be the first to grab a group, put us together on the sideline, put us together in meetings, whatever."
"He's a character guy who's also quite the character, we've come to find," Harbaugh said. "We've had lots of laughs. He's on me all the time about being too nervous and stuff like that. He's also helped us with the run game, obviously."
To say the least. Backup running back Ricky Williams is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and Baltimore's rushing game is clicking at 4.3 yards per attempt, a significant increase over last year's average of 3.8 yards.
Foster misses his former backfield mate. He's looking forward to the reunion on Sunday, especially because they won't be on the field at the same time during the game.
"It's going to be a little weird. He was one of the guys that took me under his wing when I first got here," Foster said. "But the NFL is a crazy business, and that's part of it. Guys move on throughout their careers, and they go to better situations for them and their family. I'm happy for him."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press