Injured receiver Anquan Boldin practices Monday for the first time since undergoing facial surgery earlier this month.
Anquan Boldin admitted he thought there might be problems slipping a helmet back on his head for the first time.
But Monday, taking part in his first full practice since having his face basically shattered on a hit by Jets safety Eric Smith, Boldin said wearing a helmet didn't bother him at all – and that he hoped to play in Carolina this weekend.
"I feel like I am ready to go," the Cardinals' wide receiver said. "That's what I have been working toward, coming back after the bye."
There remain hurdles. Boldin will visit his surgeon, Dr. Reed Day, Tuesday. Day will remove the wires on Boldin's jaw and evaluate the healing process. Boldin not only had the wires put in but also plates to steady the fractures on each side of his face when he underwent surgery Oct. 2.
Boldin also had a concussion, but has passed tests for that two weeks in a row, he said.
If Day gives him clearance, Boldin will come back to practice for good and play against the Panthers. Boldin said when he returns, he will not have to wear any special protective gear or mouthpiece.
"Everything will be the way it was," Boldin said.
Will that include the offense as a whole, however? Steve Breaston was already emerging as a solid target in the Jets' game thanks to the Cardinals' need to throw constantly because of the big deficit. But Boldin's return would seem to change the dynamic, especially with Larry Fitzgerald playing at his normal high level.
Even quarterback Kurt Warner acknowledged as much, saying recently "you'd like to think you'll do what the defense dictates no matter who is in there (but) yeah, it's human nature when you have 11 (Fitzgerald) and 81 (Boldin), when you get into certain positions, those are the guys you are going to look for."
The general theme in the locker room is that Boldin will simply make the Cardinals' offense that much more dangerous.
"The more weapons you can have on the field, the harder it is for the other team to defend," Fitzgerald said. "Q is one of the top players in the league."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said both Boldin and Warner might have to tweak their sense of timing once Boldin plays again, but for the Cards to have worked in young receivers like Breaston and Early Doucet with Boldin out – all while going 2-0 – will only help.
"Now we know more about Early, we know about Steve, we know about Jerheme Urban, and now if it comes to a critical situation, there is not hesitation from our quarterback … (to) count on them," Whisenhunt said.
Breaston would stand to "lose" the most after making a team-high 15 receptions the past two games. In four games, Boldin was on a Pro Bowl pace with 27 receptions, 366 yards and five touchdowns.
But Breaston, who wouldn't take part in starting lineup introductions the past two games in deference to Boldin, said an opponent's coverage could force Warner to look for him instead of Boldin or Fitzgerald.
"I have to be prepared and I have gained the confidence of Kurt, I have gained his trust, and he might be coming to me more often," Breaston said. "Any game, you have to be patient."
Boldin may still have to be patient himself. If he isn't cleared, he would have to wait until next weekend's game in St. Louis for his return. He insisted he would slow down his pace to return if he was enduring any pain, which he said he is not.
Still, Boldin acknowledged that watching his teammates build a first-place lead in the division without him has been difficult. He has regained the 10 pounds he lost immediately after the surgery and, as he did a couple of days after the collision, Boldin said again his injury would not change how he plays.
"It's a risk we all take," Boldin said. "We all know what we are getting in to when we sign up for this game."
Defensive end/linebacker Travis LaBoy (groin) and tight end Ben Patrick (knee) didn't take part in the light workout Monday. Defensive end/linebacker Bertrand Berry also was absent to attend a family funeral. …
Whisenhunt said his team had "a lot of energy" considering the players had been off since last Wednesday because of the bye.
"A lot of times when you come off a bye week, it's hard, just like it is on Monday morning for most people, to get out of bed and get going," Whisenhunt said. "I think our guys are excited of what we have done and what we can do."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 10/20/08.