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Arizona Cardinals

Updated Oct 26, 2011 - 3:48 pm

Cardinals to play against former leader Boldin

The legend of Anquan Boldin began fairly early.

A 2nd round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, "The Quan" was the second receiver taken by the team that April but quickly ascended to folk hero status.

That must be what happens when a rookie follows up a good training camp and preseason with a 10-catch, 217-yards, two-touchdown effort in the season opener. You know, his first career NFL game.

Boldin went on to finish his rookie season with 101 catches, 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns, the lone bright spot on a team that won three games. The following April netted the team Larry Fitzgerald, and from there the two formed one of the best receiving duos in the NFL.

While Fitzgerald provided the grace and highlight-reel catches it was Boldin who was going over the middle, taking and delivering punishment. He did much of his damage for bad - real bad - Cardinals teams.

Arizona won a combined 20 games in Boldin's first four seasons, even with the wideout recording 342 receptions, 4,605 yards and 20 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl twice during that span and was essentially a great player on a bad team.

And then things started to change.

An eight-win season in 2007 was followed by a nine-win effort - and a trip to the Super Bowl - in 2008, and it was about that time where things started to go south for the Boldin/Cardinals marriage.

Prior to the 2008 season Fitzgerald received a monster contract extension, something Boldin had long sought for himself. The Cardinals seemed to have little interest in inking the 28-year-old to another extension, not with a few years left on his contract, something Boldin didn't take too kindly to.

But in a way, the Cardinals may have been right on this one. Boldin played in all 16 games just twice in seven seasons with the team, and was forced to miss Arizona's two playoff games in 2009 with ankle and knee injuries.

While his toughness in battling through injuries such as the one he suffered against the Jets in 2009 was celebrated, the fact that he always seemed to be fighting through something gave the organization pause when thinking about Boldin's future in red. So, giving him the kind of money he sought - after already paying Fitzgerald top dollar - would have made little sense for the team, but that didn't matter.

Boldin thought head coach Ken Whisenhunt had lied to him about a contract extension and, having already started to show frustration by missing minicamps and OTAs with various "injuries," a sideline blowup in the NFC Championship game with offensive coordinator Todd Haley proved to be a damning blow to the proud Boldin's reputation in the Valley.

After all, up until that point Boldin was the heart and soul of the team, a warrior who gave everything he had for teams that probably didn't deserve a player of his caliber. But at a moment where the team was on the verge of accomplishing its greatest success ever, Boldin was upset because he wasn't in the game. The Cardinals won the game and celebrated on the field, but Boldin didn't take part in the festivities.

At that point the damage was done and though No. 81 spent one more season with the team (a campaign where he caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns), the idea of "Anquan Boldin: Forever a Cardinal" was long gone.

So the Cardinals set out to trade Boldin who, while once the face of the franchise, was now somewhat of a petulant player, a receiver who wanted more: the ball, money, whatever, knowing all the while he wasn't going to get it in Arizona.

And on March 6, 2010, a deal was struck with the Baltimore Ravens that sent the franchise's leader in receptions East for a pair of draft picks. Boldin got his contract extension and the Cardinals moved on.


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