After watching another weekend of NFL action, I was reminded of a story from my final season in the league.
It was Dec. 2, 2007, and my Arizona Cardinals were 5-6, on the way to an 8-8 season. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who I'd come to know in my short time with the team as one of the hardest-working guys I'd ever encountered in the sport, dislocated his big toe during the game.
For those of you out there who have dislocated any toe or finger, imagine that kind of pain (and the treatment that's necessary afterward), but imagine it on the big toe of an NFL wide receiver. Wideouts are constantly pushing off with all the pressure on their toes in order to make cuts, jumps and quick shifts in direction. Your toes can matter as much as your hands at that position. Our medical staff told Anquan that he'd be better off waiting for the injury to heal -- the team wasn't going to make the playoffs, and he'd get paid either way. But Anquan disagreed.
For the next game on the schedule, the coaches said that he could test himself out in pregame warm-ups. He did, and seemed pretty satisfied. Ken Whisenhunt and Todd Haley disagreed with him, though, and told him he'd be inactive.
Knowing Boldin -- and the kind of commitment he had to his teammates and, honestly, to the sport in general -- the coaches had the equipment team hide Boldin's uniform and pads so that they could ensure he wouldn't try to play despite their decision.
It's a funny story, but it gives you an idea what kind of a player (and what kind of a person) Anquan is: He will do everything possible to play for his teammates and for the love of the game.
What I'm seeing
Fast-forward a little less than six years, and after watching Boldin in the preseason and Week 1, here's a news flash: He's still the same guy.
He may not be as fast as he once was, but he's smart, he's strong and he can attack the secondary as well as anyone else out there. Despite some folks saying that the 49ers lack a true No. 1 receiver, I'm here to tell you that they have one in Boldin.