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Injury to Ravens' Pollard opens up field for Eagles' Celek

Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard said he was divided on what caused him more pain — his aching ribs or the frustration of being forced out of the game in the first quarter.

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw crashed into Pollard during the first quarter of the Ravens' 24-23 defeat Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field causing a rib contusion Pollard couldn't return from.

Pollard went to the locker room for further examination and X-rays revealed that his ribs weren't fractured.

"Friendly fire," Pollard said. "Ain't nothing broke, the painful part is not being able to go out there and help my boys. It [stinks] to watch my teammates go out there, but there's something called a body and when your body is saying, 'No,' you got to sit back. I did everything I could to try to come back. It [stinks], but it's a long season."

The loss of Pollard had a big impact on the Ravens defense. He had already intercepted Vick once with a diving play in the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Clay Harbor, and had four tackles and a sack when he left the game.

One of the Ravens' most aggressive, hard-hitting defenders, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Pollard was replaced at safety by former New England Patriots safety James Ihedigbo.

Without Pollard to operate as an enforcer in the middle of the secondary, Eagles tight end Brent Celek exploited his absence. Celek finished with eight receptions for a game-high 157 receiving yards, including a long catch of 28 yards.

"We mixed up coverages," Ihedigbo said. "DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant are vertical threats and the safety has to play from the top down. You've got to protect the end zone. Celek finds ways to get open. He had a hell of a day.

"I'm a veteran player and I studied, so our communication level was still high. You've always got to be prepared for anytime someone goes down, and that's what I was."

From Pollard's vantage point on the sideline after being ruled out of the game, Vick's elusiveness contributed heavily to Celek getting open so often. Celek was targeted a team-high 11 times by Vick.

"Vick is capable of extending the play with his feet," Pollard said. "Not to take anything away from Celek, I think he's a heck of a player. Man, he's one of the toughest tight ends I've ever played against. Celek is a really good talent: big body, can catch the ball and make things happen."

Signed to a four-year, $12.3 million contract extension in the spring that included a $3 million signing bonus, Pollard finished his first season in Baltimore last year with 75 tackles, two sacks, one interception, 13 pass deflections and three forced fumbles.

Ihedigbo recorded two tackles, one for a loss, Sunday.

"I thought James did a good job, I thought he played pretty well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Of course, Bernard, missing a guy like that is going to be a factor. It looks like a rib contusion, so it's not going to be something that's going to be serious, but it's very painful right now for him."

Pollard said he anticipates being ready for Sunday night's AFC championship game rematch against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Oh, c'mon now, I'm never going to leave my dogs hanging," Pollard said. "I've got to do what I can to get this rib and these lungs right. I'll be all right, but I'm hurting."

awilson@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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