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Ravens tough guy Boldin a real catch for Ravens

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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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Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Five observations from Day 2 of Ravens training camp:

RELATED: DAY 1 OBSERVATIONS

1. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro had an impressive day.

— Campanaro consistently got open making decisive moves and catching the ball cleanly, whether lined up wide or in the slot. Injuries have been the main stumbling block during Campanaro’s career. But there is no doubt he can make plays if he makes it to Week 1 healthy. Unless he suffers another injury, I think Campanaro is on the 53-man roster, especially since he can also return punts.

2. Joe Flacco showed no discomfort practicing on his surgically-repaired knee for a second straight day.

— Flacco throw the ball crisply, he moved well in the pocket, and he smiled when on the sideline. If Flacco was thinking at all about his knee, he disguised it well.

3.  Rookie cornerback Tavon Young is a player to watch.

— Young made several nice plays on the ball, including an interception in which he showed good technique and ball awareness. A fourth round pick from Temple, Young is making a bid to earn playing time as a nickel corner. Jerraud Powers missed his second straight practice (failed conditioning test), and Young took advantage of the extra reps. It will be interesting to learn more about Young’s tackling ability when the Ravens begin practicing in pads.

4. Rookie fourth-round pick Chris Moore looks like a potential playmaker.

— Ravens corners are having trouble keeping up with Moore when he goes deep, including Jimmy Smith, who saw Moore race by on his way to a deep reception. With left tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Kamalei Correa, Young, and Moore, the Ravens have the potential for an instant-impact draft class.

5. There is no getting around Stanley’s importance as a rookie.

— Stanley needs to continue looking good when the Ravens go to pads Saturday, and whenever linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil return from PUP. A potential Ravens deal with veteran left tackle Jake Long fell through Friday. The Ravens will be counting on Stanley, not only to start but to play well.

 

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Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

Long won't join Ravens, potential deal with LT falls through

OWINGS MILLS – Veteran left tackle Jake Long won’t be joining the Ravens after all. A potential deal between Long and the Ravens fell through Friday, leaving Long a free agent according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, and confirmed by CSN.

The issue was Long’s right knee. He tore his ACL in both 2013 and 2014, leaving concern about how his knee would hold up if he returned to action. Long went to see Dr. James Andrews after taking a physical with the Ravens on Wednesday. According to a source, while Long was healthy enough to play, the Ravens were not comfortable being financially liable if Long’s knee failed to hold up.

The Ravens targeted Long as a potential backup for rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley. While Stanley has looked solid during practice, the Ravens have been searching for veteran insurance in case Stanley suffered an injury. Long is a former No. 1 overall pick (2008) and has more experience than James Hurst, who is currently the Ravens’ backup left tackle.

Now the Ravens have a roster spot available, which they may use to sign another offensive lineman, or to address depth at another position.

MORE RAVENS: FIVE OBSERVATIONS FROM DAY 1 OF RAVENS TRAINING CAMP

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Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

Mike Wallace finally passes conditioning test; allowed to join Ravens at practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace was back on the practice field Friday, after passing his conditioning test on the second try.

Wallace missed Thursday’s practice after he failed the test on his first attempt. Joining him on the field Friday was wide receiver Dobson Collins, who also passed the test on his second attempt.

The Ravens hope Wallace will return to the form he had early in his career, when he was a consistent deep threat for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Wallace was a disappointment during stints with the Dolphins and Vikings, but Joe Flacco’s ability to throw the deep ball could help Wallace rejuvenate his career.

RELATED: RAVENS TIGHT END LEAVES CAMP WITH INJURY

In other practice news, cornerback Jerraud Powers missed practice for the second straight day and remained the only player yet to pass the conditioning test. Running back Kenneth Dixon, who sprained his left knee Thursday, also did not practice.  

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was hoping the team would stay disciplined during the first day of practice in pads on Saturday.

“The biggest message when you put the pads on is, ‘You’ve been in pads before,’’’ Harbaugh said. ‘“Don’t overreact. It’s going to be fine.’…I want to get right into executing and keep building on what we’ve done the last two days.

“We’re not going to be out here tackling too much – especially the veteran guys. Let’s just go play football.”