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When Anquan Boldin talks, his teammates listen.
The veteran wide receiver knows his words carry weight amongst the young players on the Ravens roster, and as he heads into his 10th NFL season, he is the unquestioned leader of the receiving corps.
The role is one that he relishes.
“It’s something that you embrace,” Boldin said as voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) opened this week. “It’s also a responsibility that I take seriously because I feel like it’s definitely on me to get those guys ready to play.”
Outside of Boldin, the Ravens receivers are young.
The bulk of the receiving corps – Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed and rookie Tommy Streeter – don’t even have as much combined playing experience as Boldin.
“Those guys keep me youthful,” Boldin joked.
Free-agent acquisition Jacoby Jones has spent five years in the NFL, but is new to the Ravens and still learning the system, which means he’ll also likely look to Boldin for guidance throughout the offseason.
Boldin has a firm grasp on the Ravens offense and he values the opportunity he has now to help pass that on to new and younger players.
“I feel like the more prepared they are, the better we’ll be as a team,” he said.
When he first arrived in Baltimore in 2010, the receivers were older. The team had Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Boldin was a new face on a roster full of veterans.
Then last year they let Mason and Houshmandzadeh go, and Boldin quickly found himself as the elder presence amongst a young group of receivers.
“I had to be a lot more hands on, pretty much be like a big brother to some of the guys,” Boldin said. “I think they responded real well because we have a great group of guys that are willing to learn, guys that are willing to listen and just guys that want to get better.”
Boldin is also more than just an emotional leader.
He was the team’s top receiver last season with 887 receiving yards on 57 catches. He also showed the ability to take over games, like he did against the Cardinals when his seven catches and 145 receiving yards helped the Ravens rally back from a 21-point deficit.
That talent combined with his experience gives him an eager audience with players like Smith, Doss, Williams and Reed.
Working with them is part of the reason Boldin wanted to come back to Baltimore for the start of OTAs this week. Some veterans opt not to participate in offseason team activities until they are mandated, but Boldin saw this as a chance to work with his teammates and help further digest the offense.
“I think for all of the guys, getting in to learn and the playbook, learn the language [is important],” Boldin said. “We’re fast paced, especially when camp hits, there’s no turning back for us.
“For those guys to be able to come in and learn as much as possible right now while things are a little slowed down, I think that’s important.”
Although the group is still young, Boldin knows they have players fighting to make the roster and he is looking forward to what they might accomplish this season.
“I like the group overall,” Boldin said. “I think we have a lot of great, young talent, guys that are hungry, guys that really want to prove themselves. I’m excited to see them.
“You have guys that are ready to go out and show fans they can play in this league.”