OWINGS MILLS, Md. — He’s been dubbed the Patriot Killer and the Anti-Patriot.
Ravens safety Bernard Pollard has left his mark and a lasting impact on three of New England’s seasons during his seven-year career.
As a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, he faced New England, fresh off the disappointment of losing in the Super Bowl after winning 18 consecutive games, in the season opener. As Tom Brady went back to pass in the first quarter, Pollard came running at him on a safety blitz.
Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris blocked Pollard to the turf, but Pollard wasn’t done with the play. On the ground, Pollard lunged at Brady’s legs, connecting his red Chiefs helmet to Brady’s left knee and tearing the quarterback’s anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. Brady’s season was over.
Pollard was with Houston in 2009 when the Patriots took on the Texans in the final game of the regular season. Brady threw a pass to receiver Wes Welker to the short left side of the field, which he then took up the field. Pollard closed in on Welker fast, forcing the diminutive receiver to cut to his right, possibly faster than he anticipated. His left plant foot slipped and he tore his ACL and MCL, missing the playoffs that year.
In last year’s AFC championship game, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught a pass of about 20 yards with Pollard in coverage. Pollard wrapped Gronkowski up to take him to the ground. As Gronkowski hit the turf, Pollard’s right thigh forcefully landed on Gronkowski’s left ankle. Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain. Gronkowski played in the Super Bowl two weeks later, but the injury helped limit him to just two catches for 26 yards.
Ravens fans, and those who aren’t fond of the Patriots, have embraced Pollard as the Patriot Killer since he’s taken three key players out in three different seasons playing with three different teams. But it’s not a moniker Pollard is fond of.
“That’s not me,” Pollard said. “I don’t laugh at anything like that because that’s not my intentions. I’m not a malicious player. I look to play football hard, fast and physical. It just so happened a lot of the injuries came against the Patriots. But I think they know I respect them as men, as players.”
Pollard hits as hard as any safety in the NFL. Pollard leveled Eagles tight end Brent Celek after a reception Sunday, which resulted in Celek being checked by Philadelphia’s training staff.
He’s often utilized on quarterback blitzes and picked up a sack against the Eagles. However, during his sack in the second quarter, Pollard injured his ribs and had to leave the game. He didn’t practice Wednesday but said he’d be “ready to go” for Sunday night’s game against the Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium.
“It’s just one of those things where when the body says no, you better sit it down,” Pollard said. “I did everything I could to come back. But that’s fine and dandy. Now I got time and rest.”
When Pollard was in Houston during the 2009-10 seasons, he earned the tag of being limited as a box safety. His reputation was that he couldn’t cover in the back end, partially due to the fact that Houston’s secondary ranked among the worst in the NFL during his two years there.
But in Baltimore in 2011, he recorded a career-high 13 pass deflections. He recorded an interception in the end zone against Philadelphia, saving what could have been a touchdown.
“His ability to catch the ball and to cover is still there,” Ravens cornerback Cary Williams said. “He’s a versatile guy. He’s one of those guys that opposing offenses have to account for in the run game and in the pass game.”
With safety Ed Reed being the brains behind the Ravens secondary, Pollard is regarded as the one who brings the energy. Cornerback Lardarius Webb said when he sees Pollard hit someone, it fires him up.
“He’s our energy guy, a pit bull,” Webb said. “I get started when I see him hyped up and knocking someone out. It makes me want to do the same thing. I love the way he plays defense.”
Said Reed: “He’s definitely an asset, man. He’s somebody to reckon with. He’s going to hit guys, he’s going to cover. Obviously, he’s catching interceptions now. That’s what you like. You love to see growth.”
However, Pollard and the secondary have to correct coverage mistakes that led to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick throwing for 371 yards in Philadelphia’s 24-23 win. With Brady’s Patriots on deck, the solution is easier said than done.
Pollard said the key is to stay focused against a team such as New England that can spread the ball around. Though he’s not intending to inflict harm when he hits, he still plans to play as fast and as physical as he has in the past against the Patriots.
“When it’s all said and done, we are going against each other,” Pollard said. “I’m going to do everything I can. If you got the ball, I see ball and hit ball.”