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Anquan Boldin Q&A: Looking Toward the Future After a Tumultuous Offseason

Jason ColeNFL AnalystJune 1, 2015

USA Today

After an offseason of significant change, one of the few mainstays for the San Francisco 49ers is wide receiver Anquan Boldin—no surprise for a man who has had an almost unimaginably consistent 12-year career.

Despite being viewed as too slow to be great when he was drafted in 2003, Boldin has never caught under 56 passes in any of his first 12 years and has caught at least 70 passes in eight seasons. That includes more than 80 in each of his first two years with the 49ers, who face having to replicate previous success without coach Jim Harbaugh, linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith this year.      

While that's of concern to Boldin, there are bigger issues in his life as he closes in on the end of his career, as Bleacher Report learned in a recent interview:

Bleacher Report: The 49ers have lost some very tough-minded, physical players this offseason with the retirements of Willis and Smith, not to mention other guys like Chris Borland. Jim Harbaugh was pretty tough as well. How do you fill that void?

Anqyan Boldin: Those guys who retired will be difficult to replace, but we have other guys and we have brought people in. Darnell Dockett is that kind of guy. That's his mentality. That's what he brings. I played with him in Arizona and I know what he was like there, every time he stepped on the football field. He's a pure football player, and you realize that when you play with or against him. You have to have that mindset.

It's tough to replace guys like Pat and Justin. People were kind of shocked about Pat, but it was not unexpected with Justin. It will be tough to replace good football players like that, but we have people to step in and play. For me, it's exciting. I've been around a long time and seen guys move around or leave the game. I've been in this situation, so I'm actually looking forward to how we handle it.

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 02: Anquan Boldin #81 of the San Francisco 49ers is congratulated by head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines after scoring a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium on November 2, 2014 i
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

B/R: You actually have a lot of that mindset. You're still the guy who came back to play two weeks after breaking his jaw. I assume you're part of that.

Boldin: Honestly, I didn't even want to miss those two games. I kind of ended up forcing the doctor's hand so that I could get out there. He wanted to shut me down for the rest of the season, but when he said I couldn't make it any worse, I pretty much said I was going to keep playing.

B/R: Got any good stories about Dockett? At least one that you could share publically?

Boldin (laughing): There ain't too many about him that you can share; that's true. He has been that way since I've known him back in college [at Florida State]. He's a different dude. He's a great football player, and I love having him as a teammate. But yeah, he's just a different dude.

B/R: Did you see him tweeting about jury duty this offseason?

Boldin (laughing): I didn't see it myself because I don't pay too much attention to social media. But I heard about it from some of the guys. They told me he didn't really want to be there.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

B/R: Why should fans believe that Jim Tomsula can step in for Harbaugh so easily?

Boldin: I've seen how many of the defensive linemen respond to him and how good a job he did managing that group. With the defensive line, you have a lot of really out-there, aggressive personalities, and he got the most out of those guys. He did it because he knew how to treat each of those guys differently. Great coaches are the coaches who know how to work with different personalities and still find a way to get the most out of people. I don't think you can coach every guy the exact same way, and Jim doesn't do that. He has done a great job with all the different characters he has had.

B/R: You seem like a guy who would have been really happy being a defensive player, especially a lineman. True?

Boldin: Oh yeah, I would like to play defense and hit somebody. I played safety in high school and like knocking guys out.

B/R: You've been traded twice in your career, which is rare. Both times, you've gone on to play really well with your new team. You've had more than 80 catches in each of your two seasons with San Francisco. Does the fact you've been traded twice continue to feed your fire? Are you out to prove people wrong?

Boldin: It's a combination of both. The way I approach it is: If you trade me, it's my job to make you understand you made a mistake. The Arizona Cardinals said when they traded me that my best days as a player were behind me and that they got the most out of me during my seven years there. Well, whoever is in the Cardinals scouting department who made that decision needs to be fired. The same thing with Baltimore. I love Baltimore and everything we were able to do there, but they made a mistake trading me. I have to keep working to prove to them the mistake they made.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

B/R: So it doesn't sound like you're close to retiring yet.

Boldin: I'll finish the game on my own terms. I don't want to overstay my welcome. If I'm not playing at a high level, I will leave on my terms. But I will also say for myself that when I do retire, I will have a lot left in the tank.

B/R: So you're not one of those guys who wants to play until he's 40 or 45 years old?

Boldin: No, I don't want to do that. I think it's kind of selfish to want to play until you're 40 or 45. I have two boys now, and I'm 34. If I play until I'm 40 and my oldest, he'll be in 11th grade and I'll have missed his entire time growing up just so that I can be a football player. Being a football player takes a lot of time and sacrifice by everybody, including your family. Obviously, I can give him a lot of things by playing football, but that's not worth the time that we can spend together. There are a lot of things I want to do as a husband and as a father, and football takes a lot of that time away. The money won't mean as much as the time.

B/R: It sounds like your dad was very involved with you growing up in Pahokee, Florida.

Boldin: Yes, my dad was very involved with me.

B/R: You've quickly become Colin Kaepernick's favorite target in the two years together. He regressed a lot last season, but how close is he to figuring it out?

Boldin: I think he's very close, and he has all the athletic ability you could imagine. He can run, and he has the arm strength. More important, he puts in the time. He's a first-in, last-out type of guy, so that's not the problem. Like I say, he's close. Honestly, I think he just needs to be more consistent.

B/R: Is there anybody out there who you hate to play against? It's not just that he's a good player. Maybe it's because he has a weird style of play that makes him difficult. Anybody like that?

Boldin: Honest, no and if there was somebody like that who I had a hard time playing against, I would want to play against them. I would love that challenge. That sounds like the type of person who would get the most out of you, and that's exactly what I want.

B/R: You've been talking with Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis about starting a boot camp for NFL players who are looking to do charitable work. What exactly is the idea?

Boldin: My idea was to help maximize the opportunities off the field for players doing charity work or looking to start a foundation, anything they are looking to champion. In 2012, I went to Ethiopia with Larry Fitzgerald. Going to Africa and then testifying [before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs] made me realize the impact we can have as athletes. I'm not sure how many guys understand the impact they can have when they're in this position as a professional.

So the idea was to have a boot camp where you could teach this. How do you start a foundation? What can you accomplish? We were going to take some guys to Kenya this year, but we had to cancel it because it wasn't safe to go there after what happened.

Still, it's something I want to get started. It could be anywhere in the country. If someone is talking about solving hunger for the homeless, we can do it in (Los Angeles) on skid row and really help them get an idea of what the problem is like.

B/R: This sounds like a pretty bold project. You were named a finalist for the NFL Man of the Year Award this year. Did that inspire this plan?

Boldin: We just want to get the groundwork going and get that established. To be honest, I've won the Man of the Year Award when I was in Arizona and Baltimore, too. This is just something I have always believed in. We could do so much more as a league to help. Not just players, but coaches and owners. The league could be way more involved in helping with a lot of causes.

If we just get guys out there to see what they can do and then do it as an entire league … I just think about how much change could be brought about. We have a lot of people who can do great things.

Jason Cole covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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