Ravens Notebook

Bernard Pollard: 'People call me the enforcer'.

The enforcer has no fear, using his shoulders and forearms as dangerous weapons to crash into ball carriers.

Hitting is his game, and Bernard Pollard has inflicted a lot of punishment since entering the NFL six years ago.

Three years ago, a devastating shot from the Baltimore Ravens' intimidating strong safety ended the season of New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady due to a serious knee injury.

The incident motivated the NFL to pass a rule abolishing defensive players from lunging or diving at quarterbacks' lower legs Earning nicknames such as "The Bonecrusher" and "The Angry Man," Pollard thrives on contact and is built for fierce collisions at an imposing 6-foot-1, 228 pounds.

Since taking over as the starting safety opposite All-Pro free safety Ed Reed as the replacement for Jacksonville Jaguars safety Dawan Landry, Pollard has injected a physical presence into the Ravens' third-ranked defense.

"I just love that pit bull," Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Don't get me wrong, as a friend, I miss Dawan Landry and not to take anything away from Tom Zbikowski or Haruki Nakamura, but Bernard has just had that fire.

"He comes up, and he hits. I have to beg him, for the love of God, don't ever change the way you play. We'll live with it. We'll pitch in for any fines. I love the way Bernard plays."

The Ravens have Pollard operate as an aggressive force player, blitzing quarterbacks and crushing running backs. He's been a key to the Ravens ranking second against the run, allowing 88.8 yards on the ground and fifth against the pass with 198.6 yards allowed per game. Pollard is tied for fourth on the team with 57 tackles, also recording two sacks and deflecting seven passes. And he leads the team with three forced fumbles.

"He's a tackling machine," Reed said. "He's a professional, he's always prepared. And he reminds me a lot of Dawan. We haven't lost a step in that sense."

Let go by the Houston Texans after the defense finished last in pass defense a year ago, Pollard is embracing his new football environment. "I'm blessed to be here," Pollard said. "That's the type of player I've been my whole career, and I'm finally in the situation where they accept me. I'm not doing off the field. I don't go out or do anything crazy. Here on the field, I play for my teammates and I'm going to fight for them, right, wrong or indifferent.

"I'm going to fight for them. That's what I tell a lot of people. One of the first things I saw when I got here was the love we have for each other in this locker room. It's ridiculous. You can't even explain it. We go out there and fight." It was Pollard who roughed up archrival Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, shoving him backwards for several yards after a play during the Ravens' 35-7 rout to launch the season.

Pollard delivered a message that his teammates and fans loved: He wasn't going to be pushed around.

"I just go hit people," Pollard said. "People call me the enforcer. I just go play. I'm an old-school player. I look at Ronnie Lott, guys like that. The game has changed, but I keep it old-school football."

That wasn't good enough for the Texans, though. They didn't retain Pollard despite him registering a career-high 112 tackles and four forced fumbles last season. His pass coverage skills were repeatedly maligned in Houston.

"I know what type of player I am," Pollard said. "I do feel like they used me as a scapegoat. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what's said. Me being here in my situation, I'm blessed. I can cover and I'm going to go out there and hit. "I don't care who I'm covering, I can't let that little speedy guy get over the top. I'm not afraid to put my skills to the test in front of the world. That says a lot about me. That says a lot about every player in the NFL. We take the criticism we take everything that goes with that." What's it like to have a headache-inducing encounter with Pollard? Well, it's painful.

Even Ravens All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who played with Pollard in Houston for three years, doesn't like to run into him. "Bernard is a hard-nosed football player," Leach said. "It's a big collision. I try not to have those collisions with him anymore because it's not good for either one of us. It hurts so bad." Pollard, 26, has formed a strong bond with Reed, 33, quizzing him on schemes and strategies. He stays in constant touch with the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year to absorb as much knowledge as he can about the intricacies of the defense, exchanging text messages, telephone calls and chatting on airplane flights about how to attack offenses.

And the contrasting styles of Pollard, the hit-first type, and Reed, a rangy center fielder, have complemented each other well.

"They're doing a great job," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "Bernard, his domain is he loves being down there near the action and in the box and in the run game. The amount of time that he's getting on defense, he's becoming more comfortable with the scheme, they're able to change it up, move it around and try to confuse the quarterback. So, I think him playing deep some and then down in the box and Ed changing things when we bring in three-safety schemes, it's been really good. And it's only getting better, too."

That partnership could continue next season. Signed to a two-year contract, Pollard is due a $500,000 roster bonus on the 10th day of the league year next March.

"This year, is what we're talking about," Pollard said. "I'm not really thinking about the future. We have goals and that's the Super Bowl." Pollard gained a certain amount of fame for his impromptu dancing in the locker room when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs, fancy steps that were captured on the "Hard Knocks" HBO series.

That included Pollard doing a full split. Despite being begged by his new teammates in Baltimore to recapture his old form, Pollard has consistently declined an encore.

"They always ask me, but I'm not dancing," Pollard said. "I'm not bringing it back until the right song. If we win it all, then I'm dancing. I'll be on that stage getting down."



Ravens notebook: Flacco leads NFL in fumbles Ray Lewis didn't practice

Joe Flacco has passed for nearly 3,000 yards this season. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and rushed for one more. He also leads the NFL with 11 fumbles, ranking ahead of Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. With seven lost fumbles, only Bradford has lost more than Flacco's six.

Flacco's latest miscue happened Sunday during the Ravens' 24-10 victory over the Browns when he was sacked by rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard. "I'm doing all I can to keep two hands on the ball and not let that kind of stuff happen," said Flacco, who fumbled in seven consecutive games at one point this season.. "They got one on me Sunday. I was trying to make a play. To prevent that one, it might me, ‘Hey, we're not going to convert this third down, just run it up in there for a couple yards and live to punt.' But there's a fine line there, and I can do a better job, and some of them are a little unfortunate." Flacco fumbled 11 times as a rookie, losing two. He fumbled eight times two years ago and nine times last year.

"I'm not really fumbling when I'm running the ball," said Flacco, who lost two apiece against the Rams and against the Arizona Cardinals. "It's more in the pocket and things like that, so I've just got to do better some of the times to keeping guys away from swiping at the ball." Flacco has one fumble in the past three games heading into Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts have forced nine fumbles and have two dangerous pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who have 5 ½ sacks apiece. "Maybe Flacco has a little more tendency to fumble, but it doesn't change our thought process," Freeney said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "It's really just the way we're programmed. It's never just the sac,. It's the total package. It's the forced fumble, the recovered fumble, trying to score a touchdown, do it all yourself."

At this point, Flacco has made himself a target for defenders eager to strip the football. "If there's a history there, you go after the ball," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They do that anyway. That's what they're taught to do. You can't turn the ball over anywhere. I don't care if it's the quarterback, the running back, the wide receiver, the defense after making an interception, special teams.

"If you turn the ball over, you put the team at risk. The ball is the most important thing. The ball is gold. If we expect to win football games and move forward, we're going to have to protect the football."

GAME NOT FLEXED: After considerable debate and grappling between the networks and the NFL, the league decided not to flex the Ravens' game next week against the San Diego Chargers out of prime time.

It will remain on Sunday night on NBC. The league considered shifting the New England Patriots' CBS game against the Denver Broncos, which is headlined by a matchup between star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Tim Tebow. However, CBS and the Patriots pushed hard to keep the game on that network.

Not that the Ravens seemed to care either way. "I've been instructed to say, no, I don't care," Harbaugh said. "I'm supportive of the decision. Whatever the league says, we support it." Ravens free safety Ed Reed said he didn't have a preference.

"We're a team that loves to play football regardless of what time," Reed said. "If they want to flex the schedule, that's up to the corporate people."

Reed said he wasn't sure what would motivate the NFL to change the game, but Tebow Mania has been a driving force for ratings.

"I don't know if they want to see Tebow or if they just want to change the schedule," Reed said. "The team is not just Tebow. It's Willis McGahee running the ball, it's those guys making blocks.

"Tebow is just playing smart ball. He's doing what he's supposed to do. He's doing what he's asked to do, managing the game and not turning the ball over. If he can continue to do that, he can be successful."

LEWIS NOT PRACTICING AGAIN: Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Chris Carr didn't practice Wednesday.

Lewis has missed the past three games with a right turf toe, and Carr has been sidelined for the past two with a back injury.

Also not practicing: center Matt Birk (shoulder) and offensive guard Ben Grubbs (turf toe). Grubbs missed seven games earlier this season with the toe injury. Both linemen attended practice, and both are expected to play this week. Rookie running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) participated fully.

Not practicing for the Colts: Freeney (non-injury reasons), linebackers Pat Angerer (knee), Ernie Sims (toe) and A.J. Edds and (ankle) and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (groin). Participating fully: tight ends Dallas Clark (fibula) and Brody Eldridge (hand) and former Ravens fullback Ryan Mahaffey (concussion).

RICE HONORED: Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The honor was no surprise considering that Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries against the Browns. He averaged seven yards per carry and had a career-long 67-yard run.

Rice won the award last year, too. Earlier this season, rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith won the award.

Rice has rushed for 926 yards and nine touchdowns, catching 56 passes for 547 yards and two scores.

"I never really get too high, never really get too low," Rice said. "There was a time this season that people were talking about the carries I was getting. Now there's a time where I find myself second in the NFL for total yardage. I think it's my ability to stay the course. As long as I stay consistent, it will be one of my best years."

QUICK HITS: Rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams was a rare scratch Sunday since the Ravens wanted to have an extra linebacker up with Lewis out again. "It's just one of those things," Williams said. "It came down to the numbers." … Including the playoffs, the Ravens have lost eight consecutive games to the winless Colts. "This team is very dangerous and they have had our number," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "They are trying to get their first win. We are trying to pile these wins up and go on a playoff run. That's what's most important to us. Here they come. Let's do it

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