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Fort Wayne native Bernard Pollard 'blessed' to be in Super Bowl

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For more on the NFL, follow News-Sentinel columnist Reggie Hayes via Twitter at reggiehayes1.

Hard-hitting defender is team leader for AFC champion Ravens

Friday, February 1, 2013 - 2:45 am

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Bernard Pollard is a 225-pound veteran safety who played at Purdue.

Arthur Jones is a young, 311-pound defensive end who is from New York and played in college at Syracuse.

Despite different roles on the Baltimore Ravens' defense, Jones certainly knows what the Fort Wayne native and South Side High graduate brings to the team's defense since Pollard came to the club prior to the 2011 season after being with Houston and Kansas City.

“Bernard has been a competitor and leader for this team,” said Jones, standing near his locker before practice here Jan. 24 in Baltimore County. “He does not take any plays off.

“He is a hard worker. He has the whole total package. I am glad he is on my team,” added Jones.

Now Pollard is headed to the Super Bowl as the Ravens will face the 49ers on Feb. 3 in New Orleans after Baltimore won at New England 28-13 on Jan. 20 in the AFC title game after losing a year ago to the Patriots in the same round.

“It's just truly a blessing,” Pollard, a very religious person, said recently. “I think God has blessed us all with an ability to perform in front of so many people to be on this stage. I think, we as football players, we're taking that ability, we're showing people what we can do, and we're giving God the glory.”

How long will he savor the AFC title?

“It really hasn't hit me yet,” he said after the Ravens topped New England in the AFC Championship Game. “Honestly, it hasn't hit me yet. I think as we get closer and closer to the game, it's really going to start (to sink in). 'Hey, we are in the Super Bowl. We are playing for that trophy.'

"For me, to be playing for the Lamar Hunt (Trophy) yesterday, (he was) the guy that I knew. He drafted me in Kansas City. It was just an honor to play in this game, to be able to showcase our abilities, our skills for the players and coaches. I just think it's time for us to show up and show off this Super Bowl game.”

Pollard, 28, is a hard-hitting safety who led the Ravens in tackles with 98 during regular-season play and has added 15 more in post-season play. He had a big hit on Stevan Ridley of the Patriots that left the running back injured.

“This is a violent sport,” Pollard said. “We run fast, we hit hard. Guys are big, and they are getting bigger and quicker year-in and year-out. I hope he's all right.”

The Ravens have made the playoffs the past five years but are in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2001, when Baltimore beat the New York Giants. Pollard said the defense is getting healthier going into the Super Bowl.

“We are a lot healthier than we were,” he said. “Going into these playoffs, it' just been exciting for us, because I think you look at this team, we know and understand how it felt last year walking off that field (after a loss to the Patriots). That was a sour, sour taste.”

Pollard was asked if the team is focusing on the veteran players, such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and center Matt Birk, who are near the end of their careers.

“No. We all know and understand who we have,” Pollard said. “Birk has been a guy who has been around for a very long time. He loves the game. This game has been good to all of us. These guys, how they show it is that they show up every single day to work, and they lead by example.

"One thing we all have done, and we all have kind of used each other, everybody says 'Leader this, leader that.' But I think you have 53 leaders on this team. Yes, Ray Lewis is a guy that everybody knows around Baltimore and everything else, but when it all said and done, you have 53 guys that are showing up to practice doing great things.

"Our coaches have been outstanding. One thing I've said about (head) coach (John) Harbaugh, I take my hat off to him. That last few weeks, we can't express how happy we are for him and just for this organization.”

All-Pro linebacker Lewis announced prior to the playoffs that he would retire after this season. That has also helped to fuel the post-season run of Baltimore, which ended regular-season play with four losses in five games.

“I think, for us, we've been through a lot,” Pollard said. “I think Ray is a guy who has been here since the beginning of this franchise. He's a guy who is 'The Raven.' We respect him. When he speaks, everybody stops, everybody hears him.

"He's kept this team together. He's kept this organization together in so many ways, and we are all in this together. We want to go win this thing.”

As for the AFC title game, Pollard said quarterback Tom Brady should have been fine when he put his leg up in the air when he slid while running the ball against the Ravens and defender Reed.

“When you slide, obviously, quarterbacks know they slide, everything is on the ground,” Pollard said. “He knew what he was doing. So, I am the type of player where it has to go both ways. It really does; it has to go both ways.

"Hopefully the NFL will do something about it. If they don't, that's fine. If they do, then that's fine. But, I think for me as a player, we all know emotions and everything are on the field. We are going to say things, we're going to do things, but when it's all said and done, if you want to keep the game clean, you want to keep this thing going in the right direction, everybody needs to be penalized for their actions.”

“I saw the same thing you saw,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said recently. “I saw the same thing everybody saw, so that would in the league's hands. It's pretty straight forward what happened. I'm going to leave it up to you guys to make those evaluations and to the league to make that evaluation.”

Brady was fined by the NFL on Jan. 23. Now the Ravens must turn their attention to Colin Kaepernick, the versatile quarterback of the 49ers.

“I think heading into the playoffs we were not going to be denied,” Pollard said. “That's just truly a testament to our team for what they've been through, for what we've gone through and what we continue to go through.”

Editor's note: David Driver is a freelance writer in Maryland and the former sports editor of the daily Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com.