7 years after he got away, Boldin becomes a Raven

GM Newsome grateful for opportunity to 'recover from a mistake'

March 09, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Seven years ago, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome judged Anquan Boldin based on several knee injuries and a miserable 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine.

That was the draft when the Ravens used their second-round pick (as well as the next year's first-rounder) to move up and select quarterback Kyle Boller. Boldin was taken in the second round, 35 picks later.

Now, three days after acquiring the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in a trade from Arizona, Newsome reveled in this long-awaited resolution.

"There's not too many times that you get a chance to recover from a mistake," Newsome said to open Boldin's introductory news conference Monday. "I think I made a mistake in that draft, to worry more about measurables than about the football player. And Anquan is a football player."

Newsome later added, "It took me seven years, but I finally got it right."

How bad did Newsome want to correct this error?

On Friday, the first day of free agency, he traded his third- and fourth-round picks in this year's draft to the Cardinals for Boldin and a fifth-rounder. He immediately signed Boldin to a four-year, $28 million contract, which includes $10 million guaranteed.

"It's definitely comforting to come to a place where you're wanted with open arms," Boldin said a few moments after holding up his purple No. 81 jersey. "I think it's a place that fits me."

He fits the Ravens' blue-collar persona and the style of the AFC North, one of the grittiest divisions in the NFL. He is also a football player who truly has defined toughness for this generation.

In September 2009, Boldin took a helmet-to-face shot from New York Jets safety Eric Smith on a deep ball that knocked him out and shattered his face. He needed 40 titanium screws and seven plates to repair the damage. As one Chicago Tribune columnist wrote: "That's not a face, that's Aisle 13 at Home Depot."

But here's the remarkable part - Boldin missed only two games and caught nine passes in his first game back.

"It wasn't anything special as far as coming back," Boldin said. "I just felt like we had an opportunity to make a run [at the playoffs]. I just felt like me being on the field would have helped that. For me, I tried to get back on the field as soon as possible. I probably would have missed only one game had they let me."

Todd Haley, the Kansas City Chiefs' coach who was Boldin's offensive coordinator with the Cardinals, once said Boldin's toughness is "off the charts."

"I truly don't believe there'd be another player playing," Haley said. "A couple might have come back but not played at the level he has played at that position. He caught two to three balls in games that were the exact same situation that he broke his face. He's fearless. He catches it clean, no double catch. He is a true man."

There were times during Boldin's career when he wasn't solely associated with toughness.

He was labeled a malcontent when he wanted to renegotiate his contract after teammate Larry Fitzgerald received more money. Then, during the end of the 2008-09 NFC championship game, he was seen screaming at Haley on national television for taking him out on a third-down play.

"I don't know if people know it or not - that happens all the time in the NFL," Boldin said. "It just so happened that it got caught on film. Me and Todd still have a good relationship."

Boldin now finds himself in a new situation. Unlike the Cardinals, the Ravens have built a reputation with defense and have a poised young quarterback in Joe Flacco.

He talked about how this is entirely opposite from Arizona, where he faced eight men in the secondary instead of eight men in the box.

"Hopefully, when guys try to stack the box, that's when I'll come into play," Boldin said.

The addition of Boldin is expected to improve the Ravens' passing game, which ranked 18th last season. Their leading receiver was running back Ray Rice, who made 78 catches.

The Ravens have been looking for a wide receiver who will strike fear into defenses.

"This is something we've been hoping for for quite a while," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's the kind of guy that's going to demand attention."

Boldin has always had the attention of the Ravens, especially Newsome.

Since Boldin's slow 40-yard time (4.71 seconds) scared off the Ravens, he has averaged 83 catches and six touchdowns in his seven-year career and made the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2006 and 2008.

"I always enjoyed watching him - the way he approached the game and the way he played the game," Newsome said. "Now I have the opportunity to watch him play for us in Baltimore."

NOTES: Newsome said the trade for Boldin doesn't preclude the Ravens from re-signing Derrick Mason. "I will always say, 'We are always looking to add good football players to our team,' " Newsome said. "I don't ever close the door on anyone, especially with the talent of Derrick Mason." … The agent for Troy Smith has again said the backup quarterback wants to be traded. "He would crawl from Baltimore right now to be able to play in Cleveland," Ralph Cindrich told the Canton Repository last weekend. "That's clearly where his heart is. That's where his love is." Asked about Smith on Monday, Newsome said, "I don't discuss things like that." Later on Monday, the Browns traded for Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. … Free-agent cornerback Marlin Jackson is scheduled to visit the Ravens today.

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