Anquan Boldin starred as a receiver for the Cardinals from 2003-2009, but these days, he's the top 49ers target.
Anquan Boldin is back in the NFC West after three seasons away, and will be back on the same field as the Arizona Cardinals for only the second time since the Cards traded the former Pro Bowl wide receiver to Baltimore.
That is a lifetime ago for Boldin, now playing the role of No. 1 receiver for the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, who host the Cardinals Sunday.
"I'm four years removed from Arizona," Boldin said Wednesday. "I barely know any of the guys there, so it's not a big deal for me."
Of course, Boldin said the same thing prior to his one other meeting against the Cardinals, when the Cards visited Baltimore in 2011. Boldin had seven catches for 145 yards that day as the Ravens stormed back from a 24-6 deficit for a 30-27 win.
A lot has happened to Boldin since leaving Arizona with singed feelings. He was part of a Super Bowl-winning team with the Ravens in
February – "After losing the Super Bowl in Arizona, I was even more determined to get back and win it," he said – and then the Ravens traded him to the 49ers this offseason for virtually nothing.
"I was shocked, initially, because I didn't see it coming," Boldin said. "But when I had a chance to sit down and really evaluate everything I felt like it was a good situation for me – a team that is used to winning, a team that is on the cusp."
The 49ers needed him. Top receiver Michael Crabtree will miss much of the season with an Achilles injury, and San Francisco has no other wideout threats (tight end Vernon Davis remains a Pro Bowl target.) Boldin snared 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening win, and while his stats haven't come close since, he is an important cog.
"(Ravens coach) John (Harbaugh) said 'You're going to love him,' " said 49ers coach and John's brother, Jim Harbaugh. "He was absolutely right. What's he brought to the team? Leadership, ability, playmaking, a personality that's very focused on winning and very serious about winning.
"Sometimes it comes off as quiet or maybe even a little angry, but he's just serious. … I don't think I exaggerate this when I say, the kind of presence that he is, (he) very much would make a great Senator."
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who has seen plenty of Boldin not only in the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl but in the AFC North with the Ravens, called Boldin "tough as nails."
"They told me I was done when I left Arizona and I didn't have anything left in the tank," said Boldin, who has 26 catches for 393 yards. "You ignore (people) and just go about your business."
Linebacker Daryl Washington wanted to make an impact in his first game back and in hindsight, he said he wasn't surprised with how he was able to play against the Panthers – nine tackles, two sacks and an interception among the stats.
"I just wanted to play well," Washington said. "I didn't want to do too much. I didn't want to not be a factor, I wanted to make an impact. But I wasn't thinking, 'Do more than I can because all eyes are on me.' "
Arians called Washington's talents "unique."
"I've been around some very good inside linebackers in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland when I was up there, but Daryl's speed factor separates him from other inside 'backers," Arians said. "He has tremendous speed and quickness. He still likes to bring it too – he's a thumper."
EIGHT LIMITED FOR CARDINALS
The Cardinals' list of players limited at practice grew to eight Wednesday, including two players with previously undisclosed issues: Washington (knee) and fellow linebacker John Abraham (shoulder). The others limited were all holdovers from previous injury reports: linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (groin), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), safety Rashad Johnson (finger), linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) and defensive end Ronald Talley (wrist).
As expected, linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) sat out. Arians had already said Demens was doubtful to play this week.
For the 49ers, wide receiver Quinton Patton (foot) has already been ruled out. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald (biceps), who said he planned to play Sunday, sat out, as did defensive tackle Justin Smith (shoulder). Five were limited: cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee), guard Alex Boone (shoulder), tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (groin).
TAYLOR RETURNS AS CARDS FILL OUT PRACTICE SQUAD
With two open spots on the practice squad, the Cards filled both Wednesday. They brought back wide receiver Kerry Taylor, who had been released Tuesday to make room for the promotion of wide receiver Brittan Golden. They also signed 6-foot-7 tight end Darren Fells, who was cut at the end of preseason by Seattle.