The Rat Is Back: Jay Ratliff Returns For The Dallas Cowboys

Jim Rogash - Getty Images

After missing the first four games for the Dallas Cowboys, Jay Ratliff is expected to make his first start of the 2012 season against the Baltimore Ravens. He brings a lot more than just his talent to the game.

While the Dallas Cowboys are trying to sort out how to get things on track against the Baltimore Ravens, one piece of the puzzle that has been missing this season is going to be back in place for the first time this season. Jay Ratliff is finally healthy enough that he is expected to play. His number of snaps is likely to be somewhat limited because of the layoff, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

"Obviously, we want him out there as much as we can, but we have to make sure he's ready to handle that workload."

However, any JRat is a good thing. He is of course very valuable for his play at the nose, with 212 tackles and 27 sacks in his first seven years, but he brings more to the table than just that. On a team that is led by one of the most emotionally controlled coaches in the league and where the stars, like DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten, do not have a reputation for fiery personalities, Ratliff brings some passion and intensity to things, both on and off the field (just ask Calvin Watkins). The team needs some of that.

When you look at the problems the team is having this season, you keep coming back to the mental aspect of the game. There is a tentativeness going on, particularly on offense. While Ratliff is not able to help with that directly, having him back on the field and doing some disruption may be just the spark the whole team needs to snap out of the doldrums and start playing to the level they should.

His impact may be even greater with Anthony Spencer having missed at least part of Wednesday's practice. While Ratliff won't offset Spencer's possible absense, he does promise to make the middle of the Dallas defense more effective, and that cannot hurt.

Mostly, though, I think he can give an emotional lift to a team that can certainly use one. And Garrett also made one more point about him.

"He's an outstanding player, one of our best players, one of the best players at his position in this league."

That in itself is reason to celebrate Jay Ratliff's return to the lineup.

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