OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard calls the AFC Championship game at New England "a John Deere" game.
The comment, made on a local radio station this week, has nothing to do with the Fort Wayne native's roots in Indiana, where farming is, of course, a major deal in many parts of the state.
His reference is to the type of small tractor that is used to take players off the field once they are injured.
Pollard, 28, is a hard-hitting safety who led the Ravens in tackles with 98 during regular-season play and has added six more in post-season play.
He had a helmet-to-helmet hit on Reggie Wayne of the Colts in a 24-9 playoff win by Baltimore on Jan. 6 but avoided a fine for the illegal hit by the NFL.
Now Pollard, a former South Side High School and Purdue University standout, and the Ravens will face Tom Brady and New England on Sunday in the AFC title game for the second year in a row.
“He is an elite quarterback,” Pollard said of Brady, as the Baltimore defender was surrounded by national and local media at his locker here in suburban Baltimore prior to practice on Wednesday.
“They are very special running backs,” Pollard said of the New England offense. “They can make things happen.”
Pollard is not worried about New England's past post-season success.
"That does not scare us. We want to go to the Super Bowl. This is just a part of where we are headed,” Pollard said.
The Ravens have already got rid of one thorn in their side, as they beat Peyton Manning and Denver on the road 38-35 in double overtime on Saturday.
Last year New England beat Baltimore in the closing seconds of the AFC title game and earned a trip to the Super Bowl, where the Patriots lost to the New York Giants.
The Ravens won at home Sept. 23 against New England 31-30 in Week 3 of regular-season play to give them some confidence going into the game on Sunday.
“We are not worried about what happened in September. This is our second time at this” in the AFC title game, Pollard said.
And Baltimore is riding an emotional high as the Ravens try to bring a second Super Bowl ring to the finger of All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced before the game against the Colts that he would retire after this post-season run following a 17-year run.
Pollard was asked if the Ravens are playing extra hard for Lewis, an emotional leader who has returned from injuries to register a team-high 30 tackles in post-season play.
"I am lining up for 10 other guys. Ray is our middle linebacker. We all respect him. We are in this together. We are ready to roll,” said Pollard, named a Pro Bowl alternate last month.
"Ray already has one (Super Bowl ring). I want one," added Pollard, who played three years in Kansas City and two years with Houston before coming to the Ravens prior to the 2011 season.
This is the fifth year in a row Baltimore has made the playoffs and quarterback Joe Flacco has at least one win each season, the first time that has been done by a quarterback. Flacco turned 28 on Wednesday and there is no doubt what kind of gift the Ravens would like to give him.
“We've got a number of guys that weren't there last year; we've got a number of guy that were there last year,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said of last year's AFC title game. “We've been there a number of times. It's definitely grown into quite a rivalry, we would like to say. I don't know how they feel about that.”
“We have tremendous respect for New England (and) their coaches, starting with their head coach, (Bill) Belichick, their quarterback, Tom Brady, their special teams coach, Scott O'Brien. They just have a tremendous staff, tremendous players, tremendous tradition, and it's always a huge challenge for us. But, it is one that we are excited about and that we look forward to. It's something we are looking forward to,” Harbaugh added.
The Ravens are trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2001.
“It is just unbelievable around this organization right now. I think we are more focused than we ever have been,” Pollard said. "It is about us coming together. Everyone understands what is at stake.”