Lost in the aftermath of Terrell Suggs' comments that he was "baffled" by running back Ray Rice's diminished role in the Ravens' 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday night was the linebacker's similar assertion that Anquan Boldin should have been targeted more.
That line of thinking was disputed — by Boldin himself.
"My thing is, I don't care who touches it as long as we win," the starting wide receiver said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm not a guy who goes to a coach and says, 'I need the ball.' Just put it in whoever's hands. I don't really care — as long as we're winning."
That's the kind of statement one would expect to hear from a nine-year veteran, but Boldin seems to embody that philosophy.
Boldin, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract ($10 million guaranteed) when the Ravens acquired him from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for draft picks before last season, has not publicly lobbied for the ball or called out offensive coordinator Cam Cameron or quarterback Joe Flacco when the offense is running through some of his teammates.
In fact, Boldin spent some time with the media Wednesday defending the offense after its woeful showing in the loss to the Jaguars.
"The thing is, we've played well leading up to this point," Boldin said of a unit that slipped from 14th to 20th in the NFL after amassing just 146 yards Monday night. "We had one bad performance, and everybody thinks we're the worst in the league right now. But that's the way this thing goes. If we come back and have a good performance, then you're back on top again. We don't worry about the week-ins and week-outs. Our whole focus is getting better every week."
Boldin said all of the scrutiny on Cameron's play-calling, Flacco's inconsistency and the offensive line's troubles hasn't impacted the players who attend the offense's meetings at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills.
In fact, there is a sense of defiance exemplified especially by Boldin.
"There's nothing to worry about," he said matter-of-factly. "For us, we know what we're capable of. We go out and we execute."
Boldin's leadership has been especially valuable this season. Lee Evans, an eight-year veteran who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills in the preseason, has sat out the last four games with a nagging left ankle injury, leaving Boldin with a wide receiving corps that includes second-year player David Reed and three rookies (Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss).
Williams said Boldin prefers to lead by example, demonstrating to his younger teammates how to run routes, take care of their bodies, and study the weekly game plans.
But when Boldin does talk, everybody listens.
"He definitely has times when he's very vocal, and it hits hard when he talks," Williams said.
Said Boldin: "I say something when something needs to be said. Again, I don't think there's any need to panic. That's the thing I'm pressing on guys. Just come out and play football. We've been doing this all our lives. The only thing we have to do is execute, and the critics will go away."
Boldin leads the Ravens in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394), but opposing defenses have concentrated their focus on containing Boldin and testing Flacco to see if he can find other receiving options.
Boldin had a similar effect when he played for the Cardinals — the Ravens' opponent Sunday — who drafted him out of Florida State in the second round in 2003.
"Q [Boldin's nickname] alleviated a lot of pressure off of everybody," Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. "I think the thing that we did was we complemented each other. The things that he did well, I didn't do well, and the things that I did well, he didn't have to do. I think we really complemented each other well. When we were on the same side of the field, we presented defenses with a lot of different challenges. It gave defenses more to have to think about, more to prepare for. It was a lot of fun playing with him."
Boldin is expected to have a similar impact in the Ravens' passing offense. And until Evans returns, the burden of sparking the aerial attack will rest on Boldin's shoulders.
For his part, Boldin dismissed the added pressure.
"Like I said, I don't really pay too much attention to that," he said. "I just come to work, I do my job, and I make it happen."