- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware is on the way to his finest NFL season, but he no longer considers football the most important thing in life. Last month's terrorist attacks changed his thinking drastically.
Last Monday the players' day off Boulware, Tony Siragusa, Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson and James Trapp, took a train from Baltimore to New York's Penn Station and were met by members of New York's fire and police departments and escorted to lower Manhattan, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.
As acting ambassadors for the NFL, the Super Bowl champions were there to offer support to the recovery effort. Boulware came away knowing how insignificant football really is in the grand scheme of things.
"I think the major difference, especially when you go to ground zero, is the smell," he said. "You get a smell I guess of decayed or burned people, and when you smell that it's something that you will never forget. And then going down there and just seeing the mass destruction and seeing people trying to work and scramble and get things together it changed my life. It really gave me a perspective on life and what's important. It toughened me up."
Boulware, 26, is off to his finest season as a Raven since being drafted with the fourth overall selection out of Florida State in the 1997 NFL Draft, behind Orlando Pace (St. Louis), Darrell Russell (Oakland) and Shawn Springs (Seattle).
For the first time in his past three seasons, Boulware has full mobility in both arms. During the 1999 season, he played the entire season with a shoulder harness to keep his dislocated shoulder from popping out of joint. With just one arm, Boulware was named an AFC Pro Bowl starter with 10 sacks that season.
Following offseason shoulder surgery, Boulware's shoulder still bothered him, and he didn't start in last year's season opener at Pittsburgh. Because of his shoulder, Boulware, a fifth-year pro, posted career lows in sacks (seven) and solo tackles (26) last season.
"It's finally good. For two years, I've been out there playing and I've been basically in survival mode, just trying to protect myself and trying not to get hurt," Boulware said. "This year I can finally play without trying to protect myself and go out there and try to make plays."
The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder is playing at a Pro Bowl level. After four games, Boulware is second on the team with 2.5 sacks for 16.5 yards in losses and fourth on the team with 23 tackles.
In last Sunday's 20-13 win at Denver, Boulware was sensational with four tackles, four assists, and a sack and a half. One play in particular stood out. With the game tied 13-13, Denver had a third-and-4 at its own 41 and was gaining momentum. Broncos quarterback Brian Griese, unable to spot an open receiver, ran into the open field with what looked like a certain first down.
That was until the diving Boulware, the NFL's 1997 defensive rookie of the year, nailed Griese from behind with a shoestring tackle. The play gained only one yard, and the Broncos were forced to punt.
"He's playing with two arms, which is new and great," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "With every outing, you can see the confidence and the physical nature of his play compared to years past."
Playing alongside middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the NFL's defensive player of the year and Super Bowl XXXV MVP, it's easy to go unnoticed. But with Lewis supposedly less than 100 percent with a stomach virus and tendinitis in his right elbow, the Ravens will need Boulware to step up in today's key AFC Central showdown against the Tennessee Titans (0-2) at PSINet Stadium.
A victory by the Ravens (2-1) would come close to ending Tennessee's chances of winning the division. The game within the game features Titans star running back Eddie George doing battle with Lewis. Billick likens the encounter to two heavyweights slugging it out.
The Titans have something to prove to the Ravens. Last season the Titans went 13-3 the best record in the league but were knocked out of the playoffs by the Ravens at home. Tennessee doesn't need any extra motivation.
"Look at the situation: If they do win and we're 0-3, we have a tough road to climb back," George said. "I don't think anybody on this team believes we're knocked out even if we do lose this game. We still have other opportunities to win."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide