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Bernard Pollard is looking forward to some continuity this offseason.
There’s no lockout. No new team. No major overhaul of the defense.
As far as life goes in the NFL, this offseason is about as stable as they come.
“Nothing is ever written in stone in the NFL, but I think for the most part, we’re excited, we’re blessed to be in this position,” Pollard said. “For this team, it’s exciting. It sucks to know how we ended, but you know the sky is the limit for our team.”
Pollard was a good fit during his first season in Baltimore, as he started every game after Week 3 and finished the year with 75 tackles, two sacks and 13 pass deflections.
The six-year veteran is signed through next year and is the early favorite to again start at strong safety. He’s excited about coming back to Baltimore, and he is also looking forward to playing another season next to Ed Reed, as Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome announced last week at the combine that Reed is returning for his 11th season.
“Getting the opportunity to play with him, after watching him for nine years, then play with him for one year, that was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had,” Pollard said. “He’s been a great player in this league for 10 years. Everybody knows and understands what they’re going to get from Ed when he’s on the field.”
Pollard and Reed complemented each other last season, as Pollard has a tendency to shade up on the line and deliver big hits over the middle, while Reed likes to roam the defensive backfield and wreak havoc on quarterbacks.
They meshed on the field and that has translated off it, as the veterans have developed a strong friendship.
“We’ve talked about so many things,” Pollard said. “We talk about the game of football, we talk about life after football. We’re all in the same boat. We’re trying to recover and we want to do whatever is best for our team.”
Pollard said he never doubted that Reed would return this season, and he could see the future Hall of Famer sticking around for several more years.
“I think when guys know their time is over and they keep trying to play, I think that’s when you see crazy things happening,” Pollard said. “I think Ed knows. He understands his body can go through this thing for another four or five years if he wants to.”
In addition to Pollard and Reed, the Ravens are bringing back the nucleus of their secondary. Top cornerback Lardarius Webb is a restricted free agent but the Ravens aren’t planning to let him walk away and are reportedly working on a contract extension with him.
Fellow starting cornerback Cary Williams is signed through next season and last year’s first-round pick Jimmy Smith played well as the team’s third cornerback in the back half of the season.
With all of them coming back next year, the Ravens are expected to have a strong defensive backfield.
“I could look to my left and my right, and I knew that Ed was going to be in the right spot; I knew Cary and Lardarius and Jimmy were going to be in good position,” Pollard said. “I think that’s one of the great things about this team is that everybody is accountable.”
One uncertainty in the secondary is what players will provide depth, as safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura are both unrestricted free agents. The Ravens could try to bring them back, or look to the draft or free agency for some new options.
“With Zibby and Haruki, they are two really, really good players and I think they have a chance to go out and get top dollar,” Pollard said. “And it’s their turn to be able to go out and test the market.”
The most significant change for Pollard and the Ravens since last year is the departure of Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano, who left for the Indianapolis Colts’ head coaching job. The Ravens promoted Linebackers Coach Dean Pees to replace Pagano, and Pollard doesn’t expect much of a difference with Pees calling the shots.
“Dean Pees is ready to step up,” Pollard said. “He’s been in this position before. He knows and understands every player and I think he is coming into it open minded, ready to send the house.”
With Pees planning to stick with a similar defensive approach and the Ravens returning several key pieces of a defense that finished the year as one of the NFL’s best, Pollard doesn’t expect any drastic transformations.
And that stability is just fine by him.
“It’s great anytime you can be in a system where nothing changes,” Pollard said. “I think the biggest part is being on a team and playing with guys that you know and understand what to expect from them, and they know what to expect from you.”