NEW ORLEANS — Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard looks the part of an enforcer. He’s barrel-chested and powerfully constructed at 6-feet-1, 228 pounds.
And Pollard has built a reputation as one of the most intimidating hitters in the game.
Just ask New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, whom Pollard hit during the AFC championship game with a ferocious force that sidelined him with a concussion.
“It was just a tremendous hit,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It was football at its finest. It was Bernard Pollard making a great physical tackle, just as good a tackle as you’re ever going to see in football right there.”
The crushing blow caused a fumble and led to the Ravens’ final touchdown of the game as Pollard finished with nine tackles.
“Bernard fires all of us up with his tackles,” Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger said. “The guy brings it every play like it’s his last. You can’t help but be inspired by what he does. He’s one of the toughest guys around, anywhere. He’s a hammer.”
Nicknamed “Bonecrusher,” he’s never shy about expressing his opinions about the NFL scrutinizing defensive players’ actions, or the future of the game he believes is in danger because of the league’s emphasis on player safety and policing hits.
Pollard accepts the fines he incurs for illegal hits, including one of $15,250 for smashing into the helmet and neck area of Patriots receiver Wes Welker.
“It’s a car crash every play,” Pollard said. “You can’t take away the intensity. This is a grown man’s game. You’re going to feel it. I enjoy this game. I love giving you my best shot. We play with a certain edge. That’s something everyone knows about this defense.
“I don’t play thinking. The way the league is trying to go, they want you to think about the hits and the shots and all of this other stuff. It’s an offensive game and they’re trying to move it in a certain direction. In Baltimore, we don’t roll that way. We’re going to hit you.”
Despite missing the final three games of the regular season with damaged ribs that bothered him for the majority of the season, Pollard led the team by piling up 98 tackles, and he had two sacks and an interception.
Pollard recently predicted football will vanish in 30 years, the sport becoming less popular through decreased hitting.
And even though Pollard plays the game with a zeal and exuberance, he doesn’t necessarily want his 5-year-old son to play football.
“I don’t want to groom him,” Pollard said. “He sees Daddy play football all of the time. He’s very physical, but I’d rather put a basketball or a golf club in his hands.”