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Ravens tough guy Boldin a real catch for Ravens


Ravens tough guy Boldin a real catch for Ravens

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Kurt Warner still winces at the memory of the helmet-to-helmet shot that Anquan Boldin absorbed in a 2008 game against the New York Jets.

Then with the Arizona Cardinals, Boldin was attempting to grab a pass from Warner in the end zone when he was knocked unconscious in a nasty collision with Eric Smith.

``It was the most vicious hit I've ever seen, up close and personal,'' Warner recalled Tuesday. ``It made me think about retirement.''

Boldin missed only two weeks, a testament to his grit and fearlessness. But the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder wants to be known as more than simply a tough receiver.

``I look it as, I'm a football player,'' Boldin said. ``Not so much a receiver.''

Boldin has been a key figure in Baltimore's charge to the Super Bowl. After leading the Ravens with 65 receptions and 921 yards receiving during the regular season, he's got 16 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs.

That's why stopping Boldin is a huge part of San Francisco's game plan in the Super Bowl.

``He's very determined to bring his team his championship,'' 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. ``He's going up high to catch footballs and running past people to catch footballs. Strong after the catch, fearless. We'll have our hands full with him.''

Boldin, 32, isn't afraid to cut across the field or challenge a safety by going deep. He can shrug off a hard hit, and also is an aggressive downfield blocker.

``It's hard to put into words Anquan's toughness,'' Warner said. ``I've never been around a player that is as tough as he is. To be able to come back from what he went through in New York ... I've seen him many times being beat up, worn out, having nagging injuries, but he's got extreme mental toughness, too.''

If Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco needs a first down in a clutch situation this Sunday, he might want to do follow the path Warner took when he had Boldin at his disposal.

``When we needed a spark, the first guy I'd look for is 81. Where's he at?'' Warner said. ``Cause he'll make those plays for us. If you're going into battle, that's the first guy you'd pick on your team because you know he's not going to shrink to the pressure, but is only going to rise up and get better in the most critical moments of the game.''

In that injury-shortened 2008 season, Boldin finished with 89 catches for 1,038 yards in only 10 games. He had eight catches for 84 yards in the Super Bowl, but the Cardinals lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh.

Boldin is back in the big game, and he has no intention of losing again.

``You don't want to walk away not holding that trophy,'' he said. ``It's something that sits with you. For me, it's been since that day. I'm glad I got back here, able to make things right.''

After comparing Boldin to Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio rattled off a list of Boldin's qualities.

``He's a complete receiver. He's physical and he's got enough quickness to get open in the short areas,'' Fangio said. ``He's got the body and speed to get deep and out-battle you for the ball, which is a big part of his game. He's a tough receiver to stop. You've got to be able to get up and into him and not let him run his routes, but that's easier said than done.''

Boldin grew up as part of a poor family in Florida, earned a scholarship to Florida State and starred for coach Bobby Bowden. He was drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft with Arizona and set a single-season record for receptions by a rookie (101) and made the Pro Bowl.

Soon after that, he created the Anquan Boldin Foundation, which is dedicated to expanding the educational and life opportunities of underprivileged children.

Last year, Boldin visited Ethiopia with former Cardinals teammate Larry Fitzgerald in an effort to help the drought-stricken country.

``For me, it was an eye-opener,'' Boldin said. ``I felt like I had it hard growing up - growing up in a less fortunate area - but once I got to Ethiopia, I realize I had it great.''

Boldin's generosity is evident everywhere, even in the Baltimore locker room. A year ago, he began to mentor rookie Torrey Smith, who has grown into a solid NFL receiver.

``He is the definition of a pro,'' Smith said. ``Faithful, religious, a great father. He has always been willing to help me in any way. And he is one of the great route runners of all time, so I have certainly benefited from that.''

From Warner to Smith, Boldin has a knack for making a positive impression on his teammates.

``It means a lot, because at the end of the day that's really what matters,'' Boldin said. ``The people that you play with, those are the guys whose respect you're really trying to earn. If you can do that, you've really done something.''

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Ravens backup QB Ryan Mallett ready to play if he starts against Jets

Ravens backup QB Ryan Mallett ready to play if he starts against Jets

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens backup quarterback Ryan Mallett had a crowd of reporters around his locker Thursday after practice. If Joe Flacco (shoulder) doesn’t play Sunday, Mallett will be the starting quarterback against the New York Jets. So after Flacco missed his second straight day of practice, Mallett talked about his mindset, knowing he might see his first action of the season.

“I prepare every week like the starter,” Mallett said. “As a backup quarterback I feel like you have to do that, be ready to go. You got to be ready at the drop of a hat. If something happened during a game, any week of the season. You just always got to be ready.”

Mallett went 1-1 in two games as the starter last year, completing 58 of 97 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions after Flacco’s season-ending knee injury. With the Ravens (3-3) riding a three-game losing streak, there’s pressure on Mallett to perform well if he plays, with the team needing a win before its bye in Week 8.

“We need to get back on track,” Mallett said. “I’m just trying to help the team any way I can.”

Asked if he had a good idea if he would play Sunday, Mallett smiled and said, “We’ll see.

“I hope the best for him (Flacco). I hope he’s out there Sunday. As a competitor, of course I want to play, but I want what’s best for the team.”

For the Ravens, the best thing would be for Mallett to play well Sunday if he’s the guy.

MORE RAVENS: Ravens' Za'Darius Smith says "My sacks are going to come"

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Joe Flacco misses second straight day of Ravens practice

Joe Flacco misses second straight day of Ravens practice

OWINGS MILLS – Quarterback Joe Flacco (right shoulder) missed his second straight day of practice Thursday, as the Ravens prepared for Sunday’s road game against the Jets.

Both Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh said they were hopeful Flacco would play Sunday. But it’s clear backup quarterback Ryan Mallett will take most of the practice reps this week whether Flacco plays or not.

Flacco may not know until this weekend if he can play. Asked if he thought his status would be a Sunday-morning decision, Flacco said, “I sure hope not. I really don’t know, to be honest with you.”

Riding a three-game losing streak, the Ravens (3-3) are trying to focus on playing better, instead of Flacco’s injury. The Ravens experienced playing without Flacco in 2015 after his season-ending knee injury in 2015.

“This league is all about the next man up,” said running back Terrance West. “Everybody is behind Mallett. Everybody wants Flacco to play, but if he doesn’t, it’s about the next man up. That’s how the league goes.”

Meanwhile, the Ravens were still dealing with a host of other injuries. Absent from Thursday’s practice were wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps), C. J. Mosley (hamstring), and Elvis Dumervil (foot); right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh), and returner Devin Hester (thigh).

Cornerback Jerraud Powers (thigh) returned to practice after missing Wednesday, while cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) was wearing a non-contact jersey for the second straight day.

MORE RAVENS: Ravens' Z. Smith says sacks will come