Boldin making big impact in Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. -- With eight plates in his face and wiring in his jaw, Anquan Boldin could have eased back into his job as Arizona's do-it-all receiver.

Sterling Sharpe chat

Sterling Sharpe was asked to make a bold prediction in his chat, and he did -- about one of Boldin's teammates, Kurt Warner.

Not a chance. Boldin said he's feeling no lingering effects from one of the NFL season's most vicious hits.

"I mean, I'm good," Boldin said after practice on Wednesday.

If you don't believe him, check the statistics. They're better than good.

Boldin leads the NFL with 10 receiving touchdowns, the last two coming in the Cardinals' 29-24 victory over San Francisco on Monday night. Boldin has a touchdown catch in six straight games, most in the franchise's 89-year history, and he'll try to make it seven in a row when the NFC West-leading Cardinals visit Seattle on Sunday.

In any other year, those numbers wouldn't raise an eyebrow, given that Boldin is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

But Boldin missed three weeks with a fractured sinus and other facial injuries following a fierce hit by the New York Jets' Eric Smith on Sept. 28 -- a hit that cost Smith a $50,000 fine, a one-game suspension and the game check that went with it (about $28,000).

Boldin underwent surgery, with doctors inserting eight plates to repair his face and wiring to align his bite.

"I'm still in awe of what he does on a weekly basis, and what he's done since he's come back from that injury," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "Just a special individual."

Boldin missed games against Buffalo and Dallas -- both home wins -- and had a bye week off before returning at Carolina on Oct. 26.

In the three weeks since he came back, Boldin has 22 catches for 240 yards and five scores.

Boldin's toughness is legendary among teammates. But he sees nothing unusual about returning to form so quickly.

"If I was having any lingering effects from the hit, I wouldn't have been back on the field," Boldin said. "I didn't want to come back until I knew I was ready to play football, and play the way that I'm used to playing."

Boldin's return has overshadowed his unresolved contract situation. An angry Boldin showed up at training camp in Flagstaff and lashed out at the club for failing to follow through on what he said was a promise for a new deal. A few days later, Boldin said he'd like to be traded.

Boldin is in the second year of the four-year, $22.75 million extension he signed after the 2005 season that keeps him under contract through 2010. He's making an average of $4 million a year.

At the time, Boldin vowed that his unhappiness with his contract wouldn't affect his play.

"It's a tough situation, especially when you come into a working environment," Boldin said then. "But my job is to stay professional. I'm going to do what I'm supposed to do."

He's doing more than that. The Cardinals are tinkering with new ways to exploit the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Boldin, known for dishing out as much punishment as he takes.

Against San Francisco, Boldin twice ran the ball after taking direct snaps, and on another play he ran on an option pitch from Warner. Boldin has carried six times for 57 yards this year.

"It's just something that defenses have to prepare for, something extra," Boldin said. "I think we give a variety of different looks to defenses already, as it is, but when you put something like that in, it just gives them something else to worry about."

A former high school quarterback, Boldin is also a threat to throw, although opposing defenses aren't likely to worry much about that. Boldin has thrown two passes -- an incompletion and an interception -- in his six-year NFL career.

Whisenhunt won't tip his hand about other ways to deploy Boldin. But as the Cardinals run away from the NFC West -- they lead the woeful division by four games -- it's likely that they're just scratching the surface of Boldin's versatility.

"Hopefully, it's just the beginning," Whisenhunt said. "Like we've said all along, we're trying to put players in positions where we feel it gives us a good chance to win."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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