San Francisco 49ers players walked around the Under Armour Performance Center on Saturday, following signs that directed them to destinations important over the next three days. Arrows pointed them to the dining area, the showers and the indoor training facility, which has been partially transformed to house San Francisco's locker and training rooms.

Anquan Boldin didn't need the help. He knew his way around.


It had been more than 16 months since the veteran wide receiver was last in the building, but Boldin was one 49er excited about the trip to the East Coast and the joint practices against the team with which he spent three seasons and won Super Bowl XLVII.

"I got a chance to see a lot of people I haven't seen since the trade," Boldin said before the first of three joint practices between the Ravens and 49ers. "Like I said, I was in Africa at the time [of the trade to San Francisco], so I couldn't come back here to the facility, to Baltimore. That was the first time I had seen [them] in quite some time. It was good to see those people. I built a lot of relationships in three years here."

Boldin and his family spent Friday's day off in their old neighborhood in the Baltimore area, attending a barbecue and catching up with old friends. But by the time practice began Saturday afternoon, it was all business for a player 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has called the best practice performer he's ever been around.

Boldin's demeanor mirrored that of the other approximately 165 players on the field. For all the talk about the potential for fights and injuries, there were no such incidents in the full-pads practice, in which there were limits on contact. Several players helped one another up and patted each other on the helmet after collisions, and Jim Harbaugh shook the hands of Ravens defensive players at the end of the workout.

"They practiced hard. They really had great intent and great practice," said Jack Harbaugh, the father of the two head coaches. The joint practices have given the football family an opportunity for a reunion this weekend. "To do it so respectfully, I think it speaks highly for the players and the team and how they feel about each other. It was good just to see the way they played and the confidence they had, both teams. I think it's going to be a good year."

John and Jim Harbaugh had spoken to their respective team about the importance of being professional and respectful. John Harbaugh took it even further, playfully chastising the media for their focus on potential altercations.

After a nearly three-hour practice in the high temperatures, 49ers defensive tackle Quinton Dial said it was "too hot to fight." Players of both teams followed the lead of their head coaches and spoke of taking care of each other in the name of improving.

"We came in and got some good work, both teams," Ravens middle linebacker Daryl Smith said. "We practiced against a different look and saw different plays. Their entire organization is like ours: classy. We just came out here and focused on getting better and focused on football."

John Harbaugh has acknowledged that the organizations' mutual respect helps explain why the joint practices work. Asked what advice he would give to his San Francisco teammates about how the Ravens practice, Boldin said that they essentially already know, because they do things in nearly the same manner.

"It's real similar to our own practice," he said. "It's going to be tough practices. In a lot of instances, the practice feels tougher than games because of how hard we work, how we compete, how we play. It's a lot similar to how we play."

Boldin was traded to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick in March 2013 after the salary cap-strapped Ravens asked him to accept a $2 million pay cut and he refused. Boldin had a great first season with the 49ers, catching 85 passes — 20 more than he had in 2012 for the Ravens — for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. The 49ers fell one game shy of playing in a second straight Super Bowl.

The Ravens, meanwhile, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, in part because of the regression of their offense, which failed to suitably replace Boldin.

"It was very painful. I still blame" general manager Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh joked when asked about the trade. "I'm still sore from that deal, but that was something we had to do together. We all understood. We tried like crazy to keep Anquan. What people don't realize is we fought like crazy, but we were fighting against a number. … And those numbers are things that sometimes aren't as pliable as you'd like them to be. That really was an issue on that. We certainly didn't want to trade Anquan Boldin. He was one of if not our best player."

Said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco: "Obviously, you feel a little bit upset … because you're missing out on such a great wide receiver. But at the same time, you're happy for him that he's going to go somewhere and play and get paid the way he should and be able to prolong his career. He was a big part of why we were so successful the couple years he was here."


San Francisco made sure it held on to Boldin this offseason, signing him to a two-year, $12 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed. The Ravens went out this offseason and addressed Boldin's void by signing Steve Smith.

Boldin didn't sound like a man who holds a grudge against the Ravens. He did concede that Thursday's preseason game — a 23-3 Ravens victory — and the three days of practices will help bring some closure to a period of his career he thoroughly enjoyed.

"It's the business. For me, like I said, it's just been cool to come back and have this happen," he said.

"For me, it is what it is. It's done and over with now. I've had a year under my belt now in San Francisco, going into my second, and I'm just looking forward to hopefully winning a championship here."

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.