Bernard Pollard: Scary, or just scary-good?

Bernard Pollard: Scary, or simply scary-good?Jared Wickerham/Getty Pictures

Of any place within the NFL, that of the protection is essentially the most shrouded in thriller. To play it, one should act on intuition greater than any of the opposite males on the sector, reacting in a cut up second to what the opposing offense does.

Safeties have to prowl the center of the sector, taking up operating backs, receivers and tight ends in house in addition to working nearer to the road of scrimmage to explode operating performs and even rush the passer.

Contemplating all the advanced duties required of a security, it is a place finest performed by these with expertise, and that is actually the case for the Baltimore Ravens’ Bernard Pollard, the seven-year veteran who’s in his second season in Baltimore.

Pollard is an X-factor on this Sunday’s Tremendous Bowl matchup towards the San Francisco 49ers, and his popularity as being one of the vital harmful males within the league supplies his crew with each a psychological and bodily edge. However the place did this popularity come from, and is it warranted?

If Pollard have been an expert wrestler, his nickname might very effectively be “the Patriot Killer,” contemplating the sequence of devastating accidents he is inflicted on members of the New England Patriots. And with Pollard’s historical past of outspokenness, he may additionally be fairly good on the microphone, too. 

In his seven years within the NFL, Pollard has been with three groups—the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, the Houston Texans and now the Ravens. Although he is made a reputation for himself on the sector—with 585 mixed profession tackles, 9 sacks, 13 compelled fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and 9 interceptions—it has but to be sufficient to get him to the Professional Bowl or land him a spot on an All-Professional roster.

Nonetheless, that does not downplay the affect he is had on the league—in some methods altering the face of the sport as we all know it right now.

Let’s return to that “Patriot killer” moniker that Pollard has conspicuously earned over the course of his profession. It began on September 7, 2008, within the season opener between Pollard’s Chiefs and the Patriots. Pollard went after New England quarterback Tom Brady on a blitz, was momentarily held up however managed to get to Brady low.

The consequence? Brady’s season got here to a fast finish with a torn left ACL, Matt Cassel took over at quarterback, and the Patriots missed the playoffs, although they ended the yr with an 11-5 report. The truth is, Cassel’s efficiency in substitution for Brady truly landed him a beginning job the following season with—curiously sufficient—the Chiefs. 

Patriots vast receiver Wes Welker’s torn ACL the next season will also be traced to Pollard. Pollard, this time with the Texans, once more went low, and Welker’s try and hold his leg out of the road of fireplace precipitated it to plant and transfer unnaturally, tearing the ligament.

Pollard was additionally the tackler on the play that precipitated Patriots tight finish Rob Gronkowski to sprain his ankle in final yr’s AFC Championship Sport and his helmet-to-helmet hit on Patriots’ operating again Stevan Ridley on this yr’s AFC title contest knocked Ridley unconscious and out of the sport.

The reverberations of the damage to Brady, particularly, have altered the NFL in main methods. First, it resulted in a brand new rule that forbids cross rushers from going after the knees of quarterbacks, designed to guard signal-callers them from the sort of ACL damage that Brady suffered. The second, nevertheless, is extra circuitous however no much less impactful.

The change from Brady to Cassel not solely helped increase Cassel’s cache as a starting-caliber quarterback, which led to him getting the job in Kansas Metropolis, nevertheless it additionally elevated then-Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to being a head teaching candidate, and certainly, he landed that very job with the Denver Broncos. 

That triggered one other sequence of occasions: McDaniels tried to accumulate Cassel for Denver, which upset then-Broncos beginning QB, Jay Cutler.  The following trades and draft picks that each the Patriots received for Cassel and the Broncos received for first Cutler after which receiver Brandon Marshall (who absconded for Miami after Cutler was traded) led to the Broncos touchdown quarterback Tim Tebow within the 2010 draft.

Within the following season, Denver’s beginning quarterback Kyle Orton was benched in favor of Tebow, leading to Orton later being waived. Cassel suffered a season-ending damage by the hands of Denver’s Von Miller, Orton grew to become the Chiefs starter and Tebow Time in Denver was on.

Sure, in a sure sense, Pollard is accountable for Tebow Mania sweeping the nation in 2011. There’s even a helpful move chart that breaks all of it down.

Regardless of how effectively Pollard has performed—he ranked in Professional Soccer Focus’ prime 30 safeties this season and within the prime 10 final yr—his identify appears synonymous with nothing greater than soiled play. Simply final month, Pollard was fined $15,250 for a success on Welker within the AFC Championship Sport, bringing his complete fines on the 2012 season to an excellent $100,000.

Nonetheless, polls of his friends counsel his popularity is unwarranted. Pollard’s identify didn’t present up on Sports activities Illustrated’s 2011 record of the NFL’s dirtiest gamers nor in the same participant ballot performed by the Sporting Information in 2012, regardless of all the critical accidents and damaging hits attributed to him. One spectator’s grime is outwardly an NFL participant’s thought of doing a superb job.

Pollard’s repeated fines however, there may be an inherent aspect of hazard not simply in taking part in within the NFL, however particularly when taking part in the protection place. The character of the place requires making performs in house, which turns safeties into roaming missiles, with tackles popping out of nowhere and at full pace.

The potential for fine-inducing hits in addition to vital damage is excessive for individuals who are matched up towards safeties in addition to for the safeties themselves. What safeties do appears extra devastating to viewers at house and within the stands than with different positions simply due to how the job is completed, and never as a result of the lads who play the place are inherently “dirtier” than their defensive (or offensive) counterparts.

That being stated, it isn’t simply Pollard’s model of play which have individuals divided about him. He has a persona to match his aggressive on-field works, which manifests itself in numerous methods.

In a single sense, he is a fiery chief—which has been of main profit to the Ravens significantly this yr, with a lot of their defensive veterans like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs coping with accidents which have stored them sidelined at varied moments—however in one other, he is merely a bit too brash. To me, he is eccentric, a trait I’ve discovered widespread amongst safeties within the NFL.

Simply take this previous week alone. The run-up to the Tremendous Bowl is a media-feeding frenzy, with each participant on each groups getting his fair proportion of overwhelming scrutiny. Pollard isn’t any exception to this, and the myriad tales which have come out about him prior to now few days alone assist shed a lightweight on why some revile him, why some revere him and why most everybody can at the very least inform there’s one thing somewhat completely different about him.

Final week, Pollard instructed CBS Sports activities’ Clark Choose that he does not anticipate the NFL to even be in existence in 30 years, not simply due to the protection initiatives being pushed by present commissioner Roger Goodell (which, some gamers have complained, is making the sport “mushy” and doubtlessly alienating followers because of this), however as a result of he thinks that the emphasis on coaches wanting gamers to be larger, stronger and quicker will end in a demise on the sector, saying, “I simply imagine someday there’s going to be a demise that takes place on the sector due to the route we’re going.”

Pollard stood by his statements at Tremendous Bowl Media Day this previous Tuesday, although he additionally added that a few of the strikes Goodell and league homeowners need to make or have made to extend participant security have additionally modified the sport for the more serious, contemplating it does not alter the truth that huge hits will all the time occur and gamers will all the time be getting stronger and extra specialised. He additionally added that he would not need his now-five-year-old son to play soccer.

Then there was the New York Occasions‘ profile of Pollard, which painted him with a broader brush than simply being “that man who harm all these Patriots.”

There’s the revelation that past the “Bonecrusher” nickname he earned from his time in faculty at Purdue, he additionally refers to himself as “Chocolate Remedy” due to his dance strikes. There was the story that when the Baltimore press gave Pollard the “good man” award in 2011 (handed out to sports activities figures who’re essentially the most accommodating to journalists) in addition they gave him a pair of boxer shorts, as a result of he apparently prefers to do postgame press utterly nude. As for his on-field screaming, that is simply the best way that Pollard communicates, apparently even on the cellphone, based on his former Texans teammate Ryan Moats. 

Professional Soccer Speak’s Michael David Smith discovered one thing fascinating to report on about Pollard throughout his media day interviews—his obvious aversion to germs. Prompted to increase on his teammate, nostril deal with Haloti Ngata stated that Pollard is the highest-maintenance member of the crew. Pollard gave somewhat screed about hygiene:

My teammates are inclined to get upset with me as a result of I carry my hand sanitizer, I carry my disinfectant wipes, my child wipes. Whenever you sneeze, I inform you to cowl your mouth, and while you cough, I inform you to cowl your mouth. In the event you decide your nostril, I inform you to not contact me. They don’t like that.

But it surely finally all comes all the way down to what Pollard does on the sector. And in case you ask him, he is actually not a unclean participant. In talking to Josh Innes and Wealthy Lord on KILT in Houston this week, he defended how he performs the sport:

I am simply doing my job. I am an old-school participant. I benefit from the sport of soccer […] Some persons are truly saying, ‘You hit too exhausting otherwise you’re making an attempt to injure guys.’ These are usually not my intentions. My intentions are go on the market and play soccer, and I simply so occur to hit exhausting taking part in soccer.

Certainly, exhausting hits are a part of the sport, and those that hit the toughest are going to get the best consideration—from coaches, from fellow gamers, from followers and from the league, generally within the type of fines. What has come of these exhausting hits have helped outline how Pollard is considered as a participant and why we now know he hates germs and does not prefer to be interviewed clothed.

It is why he appears so scary on the sector, however in actuality he is simply the identical as everybody else—advanced, opinionated, somewhat unusual. And it is why we will all assume he’ll make a game-changing play on this Sunday’s Tremendous Bowl.

As a result of that is simply how he does his job.

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