Here is a portion of the Saturday notebook I wrote for the East Valley Tribune on Sept. 6, 2003 – a day before Anquan Boldin made his NFL debut: “Boldin had just four catches for 44 yards in the preseason. But he has impressed coaches throughout training camp, and there was a sense the Cards scaled back his work in the exhibition games in part to hide their newfound gem.”
The next day, of course, Boldin had 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns. And everyone knew about Q then.
I suppose every player creates some memories when he plays for a team for seven years. Maybe Boldin’s were just a little more memorable when he meant what he meant to the team. He was the guy you wanted to watch during those rough days of 2003 when the rest of the team didn’t bring much to celebrate. His was the knee injury that was crushing in 2004, even though the Cards had added rookies like Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby. He’s the one who made those amazing catch-and-runs, pinballing off tacklers for touchdowns against the Panthers, 49ers and Rams.
He’s the one who was the emotional heart-and-soul of the Cards so many times (I still believe it was Boldin’s efforts, with an injured Fitzgerald on the sideline, that energized both the offense and defense and would have propelled the Cards to a Monday night upset against the Bears if, well, you know).
He’s the one who suffered that sickening blow in New York – I happened to be down on the field, and watching it from 25 yards away, I wasn’t sure he was getting up – and the one who came back just three weeks later and play well in Carolina.
There was a reason the fans loved him.
“The fans have been nothing but supportive and I am thankful for that,” Boldin said at Kurt Warner’s flag football tourney, the day after he was traded to the Ravens. “Since I have been out here, they have accepted me, and I have tried to play my heart out for them.”
Of course, Boldin created other memories too, ones that eventually led to what was once the unthinkable – Boldin ending his career somewhere besides Arizona. I suppose we’ll never know exactly what happened for sure between the team and Boldin in terms of what was promised about another contract. Once Boldin made what I call the “Scorched-earth speech” – his post-conditioning run speech on the opening day of training camp 2008 when he hammered the team and insisted he’d never sign an extension – the clock on his time as a Cardinal was counting down.
It seemed to eat at Boldin all of 2008, as many noticed. He said the other day his proudest moment was getting to the Super Bowl, but as we went through that run, it never seemed Q quite enjoyed it as much as he should have or could have. And in a bit of irony, the addition to his contract he just took from the Ravens here in 2010 was actually similar – if not a little less – than the deal the Cards offered to tack on to Boldin’s contract a couple years ago. Now, I understand circumstances were a bit different at the time, but still …
That’s all moot now, though.
Personally, I prefer to think of other times. He was the player standing in the middle of his stretching teammates who bellowed my name in a welcome the first full day of training camp 2007 — after I had moved from the newspaper biz to the team. I think of that knowing laugh Anquan always had whenever you asked a question that he really wanted to bluntly answer, but knew he couldn’t publicly go that direction. I think of him snatching that ball out of the air against Minnesota. I think about his primal scream after his catch-and-run in the Super Bowl to set up a score.
Both Boldin and coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was time for Boldin to move on, and on that point, I agree. Everything is still raw right now, yet time heals much. I am still hopeful that, one day, Boldin and the franchise will be able to put whatever issues that exist behind them.
But it was quite the ride while he was here.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald
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