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Anquan Boldin’s absence the last two weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The veteran has been the Ravens’ top wide receiver for the last two seasons, and without him the passing offense was effective, but not nearly as explosive.
The Ravens averaged 239 passing yards in the 14 games with Boldin, but 131 yards in the two games without him. Baltimore leaned on the running game and tight ends in the recent wins over Cleveland and Cincinnati, but now gets a healthy Boldin back in the lineup in time for a playoff run.
“He’ll provide a spark, certainly,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll be looking to have him be a big part of our offense.”
Boldin had surgery on Dec. 22 to repair a partial tear in his meniscus, and just eight days after the procedure he was back at practice. Now that the Ravens have a bye week, he has three weeks to allow the knee to heal and has no reservations about any lingering issues.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt all year,” Boldin said Wednesday. “I’ve been playing with my meniscus partially torn so after I got it cleaned up, I’m able to cut without any hesitation and able to run so I feel real good.”
After a light practice on Wednesday, Boldin and some of the other receivers stayed late to work with Joe Flacco on running some extra routes. He was the last receiver off the field.
“I’m just in a position where now I’m full go,” Boldin said. “There’s no half way; I feel better than I did all year.”
Boldin has no concerns about “rust” when he gets back on the field, and the coaches anticipate making him a key part of the game plan for whatever team they end up facing.
“One thing we have to do throughout the playoffs is get the ball in his hands a significant amount of time every game,” Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. “He has played unbelievable this year.”
Despite missing two games, Boldin has a team-high 887 receiving yards and was on pace for his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season in his nine-year career. Bringing him back into the mix allows rookie Torrey Smith to move back into the No. 2 receiver role and be the deep threat that has made him so dangerous this year.
Smith was the only receiver to record a catch in Boldin’s absence –Lee Evans and Tandon Doss were both held without a catch – although the Ravens did use tight end Dennis Pitta as a receiver Sunday against the Bengals. Pitta had six catches and a touchdown against Cincinnati.
“I think the good thing about it was just in my absence, we were able to see what other guys were able to do, guys like Dennis Pitta, [tight end] Ed Dickson stepping up,” Boldin said. “It’s just another weapon that we have.”
Boldin is in just his second season with the Ravens, but is a respected voice in the locker room.
“He’s just the type of guy that can inspire coaches and players,” Cameron said.
And that’s what Boldin tried to do on Wednesday, when he addressed the team during an offensive meeting and told them not to waste their current opportunity.
He did not make the playoffs until his sixth year in the league, and his emphasis now is capitalizing on the chance they have to make a strong postseason run.
“Just because we’re in the playoffs, don’t take it for granted and think you’re going to be back here because this group won’t be together again,” Boldin said. “Different pieces will be part of this team next year and a guy might go somewhere else and never see the playoffs again, so while you have the opportunity, make the most of it.”