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Rested Boldin says he won't miss his first career playoff game

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Anquan Boldin didn't let a facial fracture earlier this season keep him on the sideline for long.

So there's no way a sore shoulder would prevent him from the first playoff game of his NFL career.

"If anybody thinks that I'm going to miss this game, they're not too bright," he said earlier this week.

After sitting out the last two games with a shoulder injury, Boldin went through a limited workout Wednesday and said he felt fine. There was no doubt, he said, that he would play Saturday when the Cardinals are home in a wild-card game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Even though he missed four games this season, Boldin ranked second in the NFC in receptions with 89, trailing only teammate Larry Fitzgerald's 96. Eleven of Boldin's catches were for touchdowns, a career best.

"He's had a very good season. I think that's why he's a starter in the Pro Bowl," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's a credit to the hard work that he put in in training camp and how he's played even through injuries."

Boldin, a team co-captain last season and one of the most respected members of the team, opened training camp in July by ripping Cardinals management for going back on what he said was a promise to give him a new contract. He has two years left on his existing deal, but said he would never re-sign with Arizona.

He also vowed he would not let his feelings affect his play.

Then came the brutal hit he took in the waning seconds of the Cardinals' 56-35 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 28. He lay motionless for several minutes before being carefully carted off the field. The NFL fined Jets safety Eric Smith $50,000 and suspended him for a game, although Boldin didn't think it was a dirty hit.

"To me, it was just football," he said at the time.

Boldin had seven plates and more than 40 screws inserted to fix multiple facial fractures, but he missed only two games.

"Injuries are a part of football, and those things are going to happen," Boldin said as he walked off the practice field Wednesday. "The only thing you can do is come back and try to be the same player."

His first game back, at Carolina, he caught nine passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 30-yard run. In the eight games after the injury, Boldin had 62 catches for 672 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed nine times for 67 yards.

Boldin aggravated a shoulder injury against Minnesota, but probably could have played in the final two games had the Cardinals not already clinched the NFC West title. He said it simply made sense not to risk worsening the injury.

Fitzgerald, also going to his third Pro Bowl, welcomes his teammate's return.

"Q draws so much attention to himself with the things he's able to do," Fitzgerald said, "and Steve (Breaston) has been playing really well for us. We've got a lot of guys who are out there making plays for us."

Boldin, Fitzgerald and Breaston each topped 1,000 receiving yards this season, only the fifth time in NFL history that a trio of teammates has done so.

Kurt Warner and the Cardinals send the No. 2 pass offense in the league against an Atlanta team that ranks 21st in pass defense.

"We're just going to play our style of football," Boldin said. "It doesn't matter who we play, that doesn't change."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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