Anquan Boldin was always one of the more interesting players to talk to in the Ravens’ locker room.
The tough wide receiver, who was traded Monday to the San Francisco 49ers as another salary-cap casualty, was wary of the media. He wasn’t hostile and he recognized that as a veteran player and team leader, he had an obligation to talk to reporters.
But the message that resonated from Boldin in every interview was this: he was here to play football. And nothing else really mattered.
He was no-frills all the way, as far from your stereotypical NFL wide receiver diva as one could get.
One of my favorite memories of him involves a conversation we had last fall, the day after his 32nd birthday.
“Do anything fun?” I asked him as an ice-breaker. (Oh, you can tell I’ve been in this business for a while, with a smooth opener like that.)
“No, just worked [here],” he said, meaning at the Castle.
“OK,” I said, “how about after you got home? Do anything fun with the family?”
“No,” he said. “We just hung out at the house.”
Knowing Boldin, he was probably watching game film or studying the Ravens’ playbook when his family dragged him away to sing “Happy Birthday” and blow out the candles on his cake.
But even if he had done something fun to mark turning 32, he probably wasn’t about to share it with a reporter.
That was Boldin, all right, the ultimate pro. Even in his 10th NFL season, he was always focused on getting ready for the next game.
A few days earlier, he had a terrific outing in the Ravens’ 23-16 win over the Cleveland Browns, with nine catches for 131 yards. He’d caught eight passes for 125 yards in the second half.
The Ravens were still gushing about his performance, talking about his leadership, his smarts, his toughness, his precise routes and how clutch he was. But fans and pundits were still knocking the guy, saying he really wasn’t a No. 1 receiver, he was too slow, too old, not doing enough to help the Ravens win.
Typically, he brushed off the criticism. We weren’t talking about football, we were talking about something else. Something extraneous.
Something that just didn’t matter to him.
“I don’t care” about the critics, he said. “I mean for me, it’s more than about getting credit or getting praise. I’m here for one reason, and that’s to win a championship. And for me, it’s whatever it takes.
“Honestly, I like [being overlooked]. 'Cause if I can just come to work and play football and not have to deal with anything else outside of that, that’s a perfect scenario for me.”
It was nice to see Boldin get the championship he wanted so much. Ravens fans are shocked to see him go, but that’s the business of pro football.
Odds are he’ll be the same calm, steadying, clutch presence with the 49ers that he was here.
After how well he played for the Ravens in the postseason and Super Bowl, you have to think he’s still got at least a couple of good seasons left in him, too.
He’ll never be a media darling in San Francisco.
But if you want to win championships, you want players like Anquan Boldin on your team.