As Anquan Boldin's seemingly lifeless body lay in the New York Jets' end zone on week four last year I wasn't the only one who thought, "That man is dead."
After being sandwiched by two lunging Jets defensive backs, Boldin's head hit the ground hard and his body went limp. He was knocked out and had to be carted off on a stretcher.
Jets fans everywhere were chanting, "He got, JACKED UP!" emulating the ESPN segment touting the biggest hits of the week and season.
Cardinals fans didn't immediately recognize the seriousness of the situation. Boldin takes hits, that's his MO. He's usually the guy initiating the contact and undoubtedly the toughest receiver in football.
So when it was revealed Boldin would have to undergo structural face surgery and receive metal plates, the severity of his injury was evident.
Surprisingly the only person who considered retirement after this incident was Kurt Warner. He felt responsible for the play. In Warner's eyes he never should have thrown the ball into double coverage.
That play really drives home how dangerous the NFL can be. Most QB's don't want to throw into double coverage because it could result in an interception. This play shows throwing into double coverage is also risky for the health of your teammates.
I knew Boldin was tough, but to only miss two games after such a punishing hit was amazing and inspirational.
Boldin is a football player. Plain and simple. When he's saying he wants more money it's because he deserves it. He puts his career, and sometimes his life on the line in every game.
So the Cardinals management has an interesting choice as they debate how to handle Boldin's contract situation.
On one hand they already have a talented number one receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, while on the other Boldin is the kind of player that will elevate any team he plays for.
My advice to the Cardinals management is to pay Boldin whatever he wants. Especially because Warner and Fitzgerald have said they will take pay cuts in order to keep Boldin on the team. It makes fiscal sense to get the most for the money.
Plus Boldin and Fitzgerald have been on the same team their whole careers. If they stay together they will be debated as the best receiving tandem of all time.
With all the flashy wide receivers begging for attention in the league, Boldin has never succumbed to such degradation.
When Boldin asks for more money it's not because he thinks his marketability has outgrown his pay, it's because his play on the field is a superior product and the only way he knows how to play is dangerous.
Boldin wanted more money last year, but the Cardinals refused to rework his contract. Boldin missed training camp but played anyway. He stayed together for the kids, knowing his spat with management wasn't going to be resolved.
But now it seems Boldin recognizes he can't gamble with his body.
As the NFL heads toward an uncapped season it's time for teams to pay up, especially to players that are part of their identity.
In order to build on their success last year the Cardinals should keep Boldin for all the right reasons.
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