After only a few weeks in Baltimore last year, safety Bernard Pollard realized the Ravens were the perfect team for him.
Everybody on defense has the same mentality.
"All 10 guys, me being the 11th, want to kill," Pollard said. "We prepare to kill."
Few safeties talk and play like that. San Francisco's Ronnie Lott used to play like that, and so does Arizona's Adrian Wilson and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu.
Pollard is now in the club.
If fullback Vonta Leach was the Ravens No. 1 free agent acquisition last season, then Pollard was 1A. He was fourth on the team in tackles with 75, knocked down 13 passes, forced three fumbles and had two sacks.
Now, imagine what might happen this season with a year of experience.
"I'm getting the playbook down and perfecting my craft," said Pollard, who is entering his seventh NFL season. "It was a huge difference last year coming from a 4-3 system to this one, but I have a better understanding now. I want to come out aggressive and help this team in 16 games plus the playoffs. As much as was done last year, I think we can get better."
Most safeties aren'tbuilt like Pollard. He is 6-feet-1 and a chiseled 225 pounds. He is as big as some outside linebackers and hits like some of those in the middle. If there is any doubt, ask former Jacksonville running back Deji Karim who caught a short pass and was almost split in half by Pollard.
He is what the Ravens haven't had in the secondary since they moved to Baltimore from Cleveland for the 1996 season with Stevon Moore and Eric Turner: a true, legitimate thumper in the secondary.
"I had Adrian Wilson in Arizona," Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin said. "They make nice plays for you because they are physical guys who have a strong presence. As long as you don't put them in position to get exposed, they are great for you."
Pollard thinks that might have been a problem during his first five years in the NFL. He was drafted in the second round in 2006 by Kansas City, a team which played a lot of two-deep coverage. He later played with Houston for the 2009 and 2010 seasons and the Texans played three deep with Pollard often playing near the line of scrimmage.
In the Ravens scheme, Pollard says he is a complete player and physical again like he was in college at Purdue.
"When you're on a cover 2 team, you're making tackles down the field, but you really can't show a lot of things," Pollard said. "Then I go to Houston and they keep me in the box. One of the biggest blessings coming here and playing for this team is I fit perfectly.
"We have one mind, and that's kill, bully guys on the field. Here, you don't have gaps, you kind of scrape, and then come back and pass first. Here, you're allowed to show off pass coverage skills and bring the physical game when it comes to tackles. I pride myself in tackling."
Pollard also has become more of a team leader. During drills and scrimmages, he is always barking out commands and assignments. When there are break downs, he is one of the first to point out corrections.
A year ago that wasn't the case.
"He is working on it and it just seems natural," said Austin of Pollard's leadership. "Leadership comes with age and maturity, but also how you play as well. He was really productive for us last season and he works hard. He is at full speed all the time. The younger guys look up to him."
For Pollard, becoming a complete player coincides with him becoming a Christian. He became a believer nearly five years ago.
He has established the Pollard Helping Hands Foundation, focusing on feeding the hungry in urban communities. He has sworn off profanity after an open microphone caught him during a tirade several years ago when the Texans were playing the Colts.
He calls himself a technology geek, and spends most of his free time with his wife, Meghan, and two children. Pollard says his signing with the Ravens before the start of last season was a blessing.
"No one is perfect," Pollard said. "There was only one perfect person, but we can be an example and a disciple. I'm not a brow beater or a Bible thumper, but if you want to talk to me, we'll talk.
"I come out and play hard for this city, my teammates and my family. I made a promise to God for opening up the door for me here that I will show up and show out whenever my name is called. When your house is in order, you can play because there are no other concerns."
There is a goal.
Like most of the Ravens, Pollard remembers last year's loss to New England in the AFC championship game, a contest the Ravens should have won.
Pollard doesn't point the fingers at any individuals, but the entire team for numerous plays the Ravens could have made, but didn't.
"You can't turn back the hands of time and it sucks, but at the end of day, it's a new season and we have to go play," Pollard said.
"We expect to win," Pollard said. "As far as Kansas City and Houston, we didn't expect to win. Here, we expect to have 10 plus wins, expect to win the division and get to the Super Bowl. Are you going to get that all the time? No, but it's great to have the higher expectations as a team, as a person, as a man. Here, we all have the same goal."