Anquan Boldin knocking off the rust
OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin lined up outside the hash marks, set his cleats and bolted into his pattern, precisely cutting past the first-down marker and hauling in a spiral from Joe Flacco. The Baltimore Ravens' veteran wide receiver hardly resembled a man who recently underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. If anything, Boldin looked reinvigorated after being sidelined the final two games of the regular season.
"This is probably the best I've felt all year," said Boldin, who underwent surgery on Dec. 22 with Dr. James Andrews performing the procedure. "I played with it partially torn all year. I just felt like I'd play until it tore, and that's what it did. It tore enough to where it flipped up and my knee started catching. "I couldn't run or anything like that, felt it necessary to go ahead and get it taken care of. I'm feeling good, probably the best I've felt all year. I'm full-go right now."
The former Pro Bowl selection caught 57 passes for 887 yards and three touchdowns. Although it wasn't a banner season for Boldin, his physical presence has been a big factor downfield.
During the two games he was out, none of the Ravens' wide receivers except for rookie Torrey Smith caught a single pass.
And the Ravens averaged 239 passing yards per contest with him in the lineup, dipping to 131 yards in two games when Boldin was out. They primarily relied on Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice against the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Since the Ravens won the AFC North division title and earned a first-round bye without Boldin, the timing worked out well since he was given an extra week to recuperate.
"For me, if it was going to happen, it happened at the perfect time," Boldin said. "You can't control those things, but like I said, no better time than when it did happen." Flacco hasn't noticed any glaring differences in Boldin.
He still runs textbook routes, albeit without the explosiveness of a younger receiver like Smith. "He got right back into it," Flacco said. "He looks real healthy. He looks ready to go. I can't tell you how he feels, I'm not him, but he looks really good.
"I think he'll provide that spark for us. I'm sure he'd be ready to go if we had to play this week, but I think this bye definitely helps that out."
Boldin made the Super Bowl once before when he was with the Arizona Cardinals.
However, they fell short against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite a dynamic passing game that featured quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin. Boldin is determined for a different outcome this time.
"I think we like where we're sitting right now," Boldin said. "Got an opportunity to get a bye, get some guys around the locker room healthy and we've got a home game. I think everybody around here's been looking forward to that for a number of years. So, we'll take care of business when the time comes."
Boldin was the last receiver to leave the practice field, remaining after practice to work on his timing with Flacco and knock off any rust. Boldin has emphasized to his younger teammates that chances like this don't come around all the time.
"Just because we're in the playoffs, don't take it for granted and think you're going to be back here because this group won't be together again," Boldin said. "Different pieces will be part of this team next year and a guy might go somewhere else and never see the playoffs again. "While you have the opportunity, make the most of it. I'm not one of those guys who talks all the time. That's not my demeanor. If I feel like something needs to be said, I'll say it."
Ravens notebook: DeCosta in demand
OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is in heavy demand with the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams all asking for permission to interview him for their respective general manager vacancies. Although DeCosta might wind up interviewing for a job, he's regarded as unlikely to leave the Ravens organization. Highly-regarded for his scouting acumen, DeCosta, 40, is the Ravens' general-manager in waiting contractually and would replace general manager Ozzie Newsome should he opt to retire or step down.
"We've given Eric a contract that gives him incentives to stay," Ravens team president Dick Cass said last year. "It doesn't keep him from leaving for the right situation, but it would have to be absolutely the right situation for him to leave. So, hopefully he'll be with us for a long time as well as Ozzie." These are intriguing positions, though, that rarely come open.
Especially the Colts, a perennial playoff squad that plummeted this season with quarterback Peyton Manning and now owns the top overall pick of the draft, and the Bears, who have a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler and a strong defense. DeCosta has a young family and his wife is from Maryland, so he has strong roots in Baltimore. At this point, no interviews have taken place with any NFL teams and DeCosta was at work Thursday at the Ravens' training complex. Interviews could take place in the days to follow, but nothing is imminent. During his time as director of college scouting and director of player personnel, the Ravens have drafted such players as quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, offensive guards Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs and cornerback Lardarius Webb.
DeCosta's role in terms of free agency and contracts has increased over the past few seasons, too.
DeCosta expressed a desire to remain with the Ravens on a long-term basis last year during an interview at the Senior Bowl.
"Nothing has really changed on that end," DeCosta said.. "You're fortunate in this profession if you get a chance to work in a great organization. With great people, what more could you ask for? I think the Ravens, we've been together now, Ozzie Newsome, Pat Moriarty and myself, we were able to bring George Kokinis back this year which I think is really good for the organization, and you've got guys like Vince Newsome, Chad Alexander and Joe Hortiz.
"We've all been together for a long time. We speak the same language. It's exciting to have that kind of camaraderie We think it's a special place, and we're not where we want to be as a football team We recognize that, but we think we have a chance to get there. It's been a fun ride and we want to finish this project off."
Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice didn't practice Thursday, but it's likely only a day off and not for injury reasons. Rice has been durable all season and practiced Wednesday.
Meanwhile, five other players didn't practice. That includes offensive guard Marshal Yanda (bruised ribs, loose cartilage), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (elbow laceration), middle linebacker Ray Lewis (right turf toe), special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo (right sprained quadriceps) and inside linebacker Jameel McClain (sprained medial collateral ligament). Offensive guard Ben Grubbs (right turf toe) returned to practice after being given a day off. MEDIA AWARDS: Rice was voted the team Most Valuable Player in the annual vote by reporters who regularly cover the Ravens. Rice rushed for a career-high 1,346 yards and scored a franchise-record 15 touchdowns, edging out Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in the balloting.
Suggs registered a career-high 14 sacks and broke his own franchise record with seven forced fumbles.
Meanwhile, strong safety Bernard Pollard won the Media Good Guy award for his cooperation and sense of humor in interviews. In a close vote, he was chosen ahead of defensive end Cory Redding and center Matt Birk.
Where former Good Guy award winner Bart Scott was once given a bottle of hot sauce for his memorable line about putting a "little hot sauce" on running back Reggie Bush's ankle with a hard hit, Pollard was given a different kind of gift: boxers
Pollard isn't prone to covering up in the locker room and is often teased by his teammates for doing interviews without even wearing a towel. Pollard laughed when he was presented with the boxers.
"Well, the drawers said it all," Pollard said. I guess it's an honor."
A communications major at Purdue, Pollard said he respects the role of the press. "This is the way I've been raised," he said. "I'm always going to be there to talk and give you whatever you need." Pollard said he used to make his own radio tapes when he was seven years old growing up in Fort Wayne, Ind.
"My mother still has tapes from it," he said. "That's what I'm about. I know and understand that you guys have to get things from players and get things from coaches and you've got to make an article because you've got to make a living. "You love what you do, and we love what we do. We've got to give up a couple things. By any means necessary, I'm going to be here to help you, help your guy. A lot of guys, we all know and understand, it comes with the job." Pollard said that he got the gift of gab from his father. When he was seven years old, Pollard would record his own radio show in his bedroom. "My mother and them still have tapes from it," said the safety, who studied communications at Purdue. Pollard says that's why he understands and appreciates what we in the media do.
"You've got to make an article because you've got to make a living. You love what you do. We love what we do. And we've got to give up a couple of things," Pollard said. "But by any means necessary, I'm going to be here to help you do your job and a lot of other guys all know and understand that it comes with the job."
Known for his flamboyant dance steps that he displayed on HBO's Hard Knocks program when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, Pollard has guaranteed his teammates that he'll dance again if the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
"I already told them, man, I'm on the podium after the game getting it," Pollard said. "I know I'm going to take off my shoulder pads. I hope the pants don't come off. And if they do, I've got a jock strap under it."
Quarterback Joe Flacco said he'll be likely take in the AFC wild-card games this weekend to study potential opponents in the divisional round.
The second-seeded Ravens will play either the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers or the Denver Broncos on Jan. 15 at M&T Bank Stadium. "I'll probably watch them," Flacco said. "You usually end up watching them even on your normal bye week, at least for a little bit. Should be pretty interesting games, and we'll be able to figure out who we play, possibly on Saturday, if not, on Sunday. So, it'll be fun."
A former Alabama team captain, Johnson said he'll definitely watch the Crimson Tide's rematch against LSU in the BCS national title game. Naturally, he's picking Alabama. "Yeah, I think so," Johnson said. "I think they're the better team."
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