OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin lined up outside the hash marks, set his cleats and bolted into his pattern, precisely cutting past the first-down marker and hauling in a spiral from Joe Flacco.
The Baltimore Ravens’ veteran wide receiver hardly resembled a man who recently underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
If anything, Boldin looked reinvigorated after being sidelined the final two games of the regular season.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt all year,” said Boldin, who underwent surgery on Dec. 22 with Dr. James Andrews performing the procedure. “I played with it partially torn all year. I just felt like I’d play until it tore, and that’s what it did. It tore enough to where it flipped up and my knee started catching.
“I couldn’t run or anything like that, felt it necessary to go ahead and get it taken care of. I’m feeling good, probably the best I’ve felt all year. I’m full-go right now.”
The former Pro Bowl selection caught 57 passes for 887 yards and three touchdowns.
Although it wasn’t a banner season for Boldin, his physical presence has been a big factor downfield.
During the two games he was out, none of the Ravens’ wide receivers except for rookie Torrey Smith caught a single pass.
And the Ravens averaged 239 passing yards per contest with him in the lineup, dipping to 131 yards in two games when Boldin was out.
They primarily relied on Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice against the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Since the Ravens won the AFC North division title and earned a first-round bye without Boldin, the timing worked out well since he was given an extra week to recuperate.
“For me, if it was going to happen, it happened at the perfect time,” Boldin said. “You can’t control those things, but like I said, no better time than when it did happen.”
Flacco hasn’t noticed any glaring differences in Boldin.
He still runs textbook routes, albeit without the explosiveness of a younger receiver like Smith.
“He got right back into it,” Flacco said. “He looks real healthy. He looks ready to go. I can’t tell you how he feels, I’m not him, but he looks really good.
“I think he’ll provide that spark for us. I’m sure he’d be ready to go if we had to play this week, but I think this bye definitely helps that out.”
Boldin made the Super Bowl once before when he was with the Arizona Cardinals.
However, they fell short against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite a dynamic passing game that featured quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin.
Boldin is determined for a different outcome this time.
“I think we like where we’re sitting right now,” Boldin said. “Got an opportunity to get a bye, get some guys around the locker room healthy and we’ve got a home game. I think everybody around here’s been looking forward to that for a number of years. So, we’ll take care of business when the time comes.”
Boldin was the last receiver to leave the practice field, remaining after practice to work on his timing with Flacco and knock off any rust.
Boldin has emphasized to his younger teammates that chances like this don’t come around all the time.
“Just because we’re in the playoffs, don’t take it for granted and think you’re going to be back here because this group won’t be together again,” Boldin said. “Different pieces will be part of this team next year and a guy might go somewhere else and never see the playoffs again.
“While you have the opportunity, make the most of it. I’m not one of those guys who talks all the time. That’s not my demeanor. If I feel like something needs to be said, I’ll say it.”