NFL: WR Boldin catches on quickly in Ravens’ offense
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In his first practice with the Baltimore Ravens, Anquan Boldin performed very much as he did during his first seven years in the NFL.
The talented wide receiver repeatedly sliced through the middle of the defense, worked his way open and latched onto a pass before turning downfield.
It's nothing Boldin hadn't done before with the Arizona Cardinals. This time, though, the No. 81 on his chest and back was surrounded by a rich shade of purple.
"I look good in it," Boldin declared Friday, moments after the opening session of Baltimore's three-day mandatory minicamp.
The two-hour practice was notable for several reasons. Michael Oher moved to left tackle — thereby assuming responsibility for the quarterback's blind side — and Jared Gaither shifted to the right side.
"We're going to do whatever we can to get the best group out there that makes the offense the best it can be," coach John Harbaugh said.
Gaither said of the switch: "I'm happy to play wherever I'm going to help the offensive line and the team. I'll play kicker if I can make it on the field."
The practice also marked the informal debut of draft picks Sergio Kindle and Terrence Cody, both of whom made strong impressions on the coaching staff and their new teammates.
Most significant, however, was Baltimore's new receiving corps. In addressing their most pressing offseason need, the Ravens secured free agent Donte' Stallworth, re-signed Derrick Mason and traded for Boldin, who has 586 career catches for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns.
"We did some good things this offseason," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Bringing in Anquan, bringing in Stallworth, re-signing Mase. Picking up two great tight ends in the draft. Overall, offensively we have a lot of pieces in a lot of places."
Lewis loves how the offense is looking, and Boldin can't wait to play for a team known for its rugged defense.
"There's going to be times in a game when defense has to carry an offense," Boldin said. "For me, I love to play with a great defense because they get you the ball back. As an offense, you want the ball as much as possible."
Boldin has the potential to be a big-play receiver on an offense that for so long has relied on the run. He didn't do anything spectacular during his first practice, but Boldin will almost assuredly be on the other end of dozens of Joe Flacco passes during training camp and in the regular season.
"He throws a real catchable ball," Boldin said. "Right now, we're just getting into it, just trying to get a feel for everybody and get a feel for the offense. Today went pretty good — considering it was the first day."
The Ravens have long been built on defense, but now they've got Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in the backfield, a poised third-year quarterback and so many good receivers that it doesn't matter much that Mark Clayton — a starter last year — will miss this minicamp following shoulder surgery.
"Whenever you have those type weapons it gives defenses fits," Boldin said. "They can't key on one guy, or double a guy. Having those guys in the huddle definitely makes my job easier."
A player like Boldin makes a head coach's job easier, too.
"I thought Anquan looked good today," Harbaugh said. "He made a couple plays, taught the young guys a little bit. With man coverage underneath you saw he got himself open pretty clearly against some of the rookie corners. He looks like he's in kind of midseason form right now."