By Matt Vensel and Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
7:52 PM EST, January 18, 2012
Bernard Pollard insists his NFL legacy will be more than being the man who toppled Tom Brady.
In the first week of the 2008 season, Pollard, who was then a safety with the Kansas City Chiefs, took down Brady with an awkward tackle. After he was blocked to the ground by former New England running back Sammy Morris, Pollard lunged at the left knee of the Patriots quarterback. Brady screamed as he crumpled to the grass, his anterior cruciate ligament torn and his season over.
Nearly three and a half years later, Pollard, the starting strong safety for the Ravens, still has to tackle questions about the incident, though they are relevant this week as Pollard and the 13-4 Ravens will play the 14-3 Patriots in Sunday's AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.
"You can't control what happens on that field. At any time, at any second, something bad can happen," Pollard said Wednesday. "And that's what happens in this game every week, somebody goes down. It just so happened to be Tom Brady and everybody made a big deal about it."
That off season, the NFL's Competition Committee clarified the rule on hits to the lower legs of the quarterback, making it illegal for a defender who is on the ground (but one who hasn't been blocked or pushed directly into the quarterback) to lunge at the quarterback's knees or below.
"The rule is if you go down there, they're taking change out of your pockets," Pollard said.
Pollard stressed that defenders have to make split-second decisions on how they will take down a ball-carrier and he insisted there was nothing malicious about his now-infamous hit on Brady. He bristled when one reporter asked if his legacy will forever be intertwined with that of Brady.
"That's the pretty boy. That's the man of the NFL. That's Mr. Do-It-All," he said. "So everybody is going to hold that against me but I don't care. I don't play for men. I don't play for no woman. I play because I'm given the gift to play this game. And in this sport, you can't say, 'Go out there and hit somebody full speed with equipment and everything else on,' and say, 'Be careful.'"
In Foxborough, Mass., Brady was also asked about the Pollard hit that ended his 2008 season.
"Certainly nothing you take for granted because you never know -- this could be your last day," he said. "To have the opportunity to play in a game like we're playing in this week and prepare for a game like this is something that is exciting for all the players involved. When you don't have that opportunity, it sucks."
Has the Suggs-Brady rivalry lost its sizzle?
Linebacker Terrell Suggs has taken several subtle digs at Brady this season, but he has been on his best behavior this week and claims he has moved on from any perceived feud with Brady.
"I guess the genesis of that was the incident in '09, when I almost hit him below the waist," Suggs said. "That's when it all started, but you grow and mature. As you all can clearly see, I'm not the same guy that I was in '09. I'm definitely 20 pounds lighter. We had a lot going on, that defense. I'm pretty much over it. I respect him. Like I said before, when it's all said and done, they are going to speak on three quarterbacks: Johnny [Unitas], Peyton [Manning] and him."
Suggs even declined to take any jabs at Brady's role as a spokesperson for UGG boots.
"I heard they are really comfortable," he said. "I'll take some. I'll send him some Ball So Hard gear."
Belichick: Reed, Lewis are two all-time greats
Bill Belichick on Wednesday raved about a pair of 'savvy' Ravens legends -- safety Ed Reed and inside linebacker Ray Lewis, whom the Patriots head coach called "two of the greatest players to ever play the game." While chatting with Patriots reporters, Belichick heaped a lot of praise in particular, on Reed, whom he said might be the best defensive back he has coached against.
"The play Ed Reed makes at the end of the game against Houston last week, I think that says it all, really," Belichick said, referring to the pass that Reed knocked down in the final minute of Sunday's 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC divisional round.
"They throw the Hail Mary to the other side and he comes all the way across the field and makes the play, really kind of a game-saving play. Those are the kinds of plays he makes. He probably covers more field back there as a single safety than most teams can cover with two."
Belichick added that it would be hard to put "anybody even in their class, let alone above them."
Injury-wise, Ravens are 'in pretty good shape'
It was a full house at Wednesday's practice. That included Reed, who sustained a sprained left ankle Sunday on Houston's final throw to the end zone, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who left the game with a right knee injury after slamming knees with a player on Houston's offense.
Jones said he has not experienced a setback since Sunday's victory, nor have inside linebackers Jameel McClain (knee) and Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad), who were questionable last weekend.
"Injury-wise, everyone has been in here working hard the last couple of days," head coach John Harbaugh said before the practice. "It looks like we're in pretty good shape. There may be one or two guys that will be close, but we feel pretty good with where we're at with that."
Reed, who was limited in practice, was the only Ravens player on the official injury report.
Looking at the weekend weather forecast
According to The Weather Channel's Wednesday forecast, it could snow in Foxborough . on Saturday and the high is projected to be 29 degrees. The temperature will be in the mid-30s all day Sunday with a 30 percent chance of showers for Sunday's title game at Gillette Stadium.
Harbaugh said the Ravens have prepared for a variety of weather conditions during the season.
"We practice with wet balls. We go outside in the rain. … We practice in the cold and stuff like that," he said. "We think we're an all-weather team. We think we're built for any kind of conditions."
Brady (left shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday. Fourteen Patriots players, including wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, tight end Aaron Hernandez, guard Logan Mankins, and safety Patrick Chung were limited. … Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said that he audibled out of a run into a pass play on a second-down play late in Sunday's win. The ensuing play was a called pass. Both pass plays resulted incompletions, leading some fans and media to question why the team didn't run the ball to run down the clock. … Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork praised Flacco for his toughness, telling reporters that "He bounces right up. You have to tip your hat to him. … [He] can take a beating and licks and still deliver the ball downfield. That's pretty good."
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