Peter Schmuck: Pollard 'The Bonecrusher' fits right in with Ravens' D

Pollard is made for playing physical, tough defense

November 05, 2011|Peter Schmuck

Bernard Pollard probably didn't realize it way back when he was knocking guys out of their shoes in the Big Ten and earning a nickname — "The Bonecrusher" — that would lose none of its meaning in the NFL.

He couldn't have known it when he unintentionally knocked Tom Brady out of the 2008 season with a low hit that prompted the NFL competition committee to change the sack rules to better protect the league's marquee quarterbacks.

What he didn't know was that it was all just prelude and preparation for his place on a Ravens defense that is just as aggressive and unforgiving as its newest jaw-rattling safety.

"Walking in the door, I knew I fit in here,'' Pollard said. "The way that I play the game — I've been with Kansas City and I've been with Houston — there's just been a difference in the way I play the game."

Now, he doesn't have to feel different anymore, because that's the way everybody plays on the league's No. 1 defense, and the only way it could get any more intense is when that defense is matched up against the Pittsburgh Steelers with control of the AFC North on the line. Pollard is relatively new to the AFC's fiercest rivalry, but he clearly feels right at home in the middle of it.

"It's not about me…This is history,'' Pollard said. "I think these two teams know what they are going to get from the other team. They are going to get 60 minutes of all-out fighting, punching. That's the great thing about it."

He got right into it in Week 1, when he made a physical statement to animated Steelers receiver Hines Ward that he had no patience for the cheap tricks that have made Ward one of the most disliked players around the league. Nothing personal, of course. It was all part of the fun.

"The way we play defense here is phenomenal,'' Pollard said. "You have 11 hungry dogs going out there to fight — to battle — knowing and understanding they have the weight of the world on them. It's exciting because we're going out there and it's understood you have 10 other guys who want to eat, who want to strike fear into opponents, and we have a team we're going against that plays the same way. That's the best thing about it, playing this team, you're going to swing the whole 60 minutes."

The importance of his arrival in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry has not been lost on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who saw what happened in the one-sided regular-season opener and has seen a lot more of the same during his preparation for Sunday's showdown at Heinz Field.

"I think Bernard Pollard is an awesome addition," Tomlin said recently. "He's got a nasty playing disposition. He is physical. He's a turnaround-tackle kind of guy. When you turn the tape on, boy, you see him getting after people in just about every film you put on. He's quickly become a core member of that group, and he's putting some good stuff on tape."

The Ravens already had a no-doubt Hall of Fame safety (Ed Reed) with all the right moves. General manager Ozzie Newsome obviously felt that he needed another physical enforcer in the secondary, so he signed Pollard to a two-year deal a week into training camp. Maybe it wasn't just to match up better against the Steelers, but it certainly helps.

Pollard obviously was ready for a change of scenery and he said that he couldn't think of a better place than Baltimore, where he would have a chance to go to the Super Bowl with a franchise that puts a huge premium on physical defense.

"That's why I made the decision to come here," he said, "because you're coming to a franchise that hasn't been around as long as a lot of franchises have, but in the short time they've been around they have a Super Bowl. They've been a contender every year, they know how to play the game, they have future Hall of Famers on the team and they play great defense. Why wouldn't you want to be a part of that?"

He acknowledges that he isn't the perfect safety. He has his weaknesses like everybody else, but he bristles at some of the criticism he received on the way out of Houston.

"I've heard a lot of people say, 'Well, he can't cover,' " Pollard said. "A lot of people say 'He missed tackles.' Let me tell you something. You're going to miss tackles in this league. Guys get paid to dodge tackles. As far as covering, nobody had a problem with me in '09, but all of the sudden in 2010 we made changes and I'm going out there with new responsibilities. No excuses, no explanation, because I'm not the type of player where I give them, but fact is fact.

"So, coming here, the other 10 guys are going to do their job. Everybody holds each other accountable, so when I set foot in that door, I knew this was home for me. I knew this was the place I was supposed to be. Like I said, it's defense. We run around. We hit people. It's dogs that don't have leashes on them."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal.com.

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