Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin warms up during training camp… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
A few Ravens players, including inside linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed, took the team up on an offer to sit out Monday's practice at the organization's training complex in Owings Mills. Anquan Boldin, however, wasn't one of those players.
Despite being the 10th-oldest player on the roster, the 31-year-old wide receiver doesn't typically volunteer to miss practice.
"It's a little different at receiver," Boldin said. "When we get days off — the 30-and-over guys — I kind of stay out there because if you've got one receiver that goes down, it kind of messes up the whole rotation. So I don't want to put them guys in that kind of situation. So I went out there and got it over with."
Boldin's commitment to the Ravens and winning is just as strong as it was when the club acquired him and a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for selections in the third and fourth rounds.
He may be older, but his desire to succeed hasn't aged, according to wide receivers coach Jim Hostler.
"His approach is, he starts over every year," Hostler said. "He may be a little bit ahead of some of the younger guys [in terms] of where he's at, but he still starts over, meaning he still comes in with the mindset that he's going to work every day to get better. It might be a little different from the young guys. It might be a little more precision, it might be a little more detail, but he still approaches it that way."
Boldin may no longer be quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite target (running back Ray Rice led the offense with 76 catches last season) or his top deep-ball threat (five of wide receiver Torrey Smith's seven touchdowns traveled at least 25 yards each). But Boldin was Flacco's most productive gainer with 887 receiving yards — a category that he has led in each of the past two seasons.
Boldin's success in 2011 was somewhat surprising considering that he entered training camp with a torn meniscus in his knee. He missed the final two games of the regular season, but returned to lead the team in catches (10) and receiving yards (174) in two playoff contests.
"For me, last year was tough because I came into camp with the injury," he recalled. "I had a partial tear in my meniscus the entire year, and there was times when it swelled up where it was tough to get in and out of my cuts. After the surgery, it felt great, and I've had an offseason to rehab and it'll get a lot stronger. So for me, I'm moving around a lot better, a lot quicker, and I think it shows on the field."
Boldin hasn't replicated the kind of success that he enjoyed with the Cardinals when he earned three Pro Bowl invitations and racked up five 1,000-yard campaigns in seven years. But Boldin contended that he is continuing to evolve as a player.
"For me, yeah, I felt like I've gotten better," he said. "This year, I'm a lot healthier, but also understanding what the coaches are expecting. I'm on the same page with Joe, seeing what he sees. For me and him, we talk after every play. 'What are you seeing on this? On this coverage? What are you thinking?' So I think as we go along, the relationship just grows."
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron pointed out that the addition of Jacoby Jones, a free-agent acquisition from the Houston Texans, gives the offense another speed threat to pair with Smith, which will give the coaches the flexibility to either line up Boldin on the outside or shift him inside to the slot.
"He's a perennial 1,000-yard guy, a guy that will move around different places," Cameron said. "He understands all positions. You can't trick him. He knows what to do, so you are going to see a lot of him again, hopefully."
Boldin said he doesn't concern himself with what the experts say about his age or speed. "A lot of that stuff goes over my head and I just don't see it," he said with a smile. But Hostler said opposing defenses still fear Boldin.
"That's the kind of guy you could throw the ball to 12, 14 times and he'll catch 10 balls and he'll catch three touchdowns," Hostler said. "There's no doubt about that. He can hurt anybody at any time."
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