SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- When Anquan Boldin took that hard hit to the helmet from Ryan Clark during the San Francisco 49ers' game-winning fourth-quarter drive against Washington on Sunday, it harkened memories of the blow he absorbed six years earlier.
It was on Sept. 28, 2008, when Boldin, then a member of the Arizona Cardinals, went up for a pass in the end zone and was hit by a pair of New York Jets in Kerry Rhodes and Eric Smith. Rhodes got Boldin from behind while Smith caught him just under the facemask on a helmet-to-helmet blow.
Boldin suffered a sinus fracture as well as having wires inserted in his lower jaw to correct his bite and had a concussion. He only missed two games as a result.
Sunday, Boldin had a 23-yard catch down the right seam and Clark launched himself into Boldin’s head. This time, though, it was the defender who crumpled to the ground as Boldin bounced off and ran for six more yards.
"At that point, the game’s on the line," Boldin said. "There’s no way that I cannot go for the ball at that point. You’re called upon in that moment, and your teammates are expecting you to come through for them. It’s part of football."
Clark was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and, after the game, was asked just how special Boldin is after he eclipsed Derrick Mason, Hines Ward and Charlie Joiner on the day for 20th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list.
"He’s always been," special, Clark said. "He’s a guy I’ve always admired. He always plays good football everywhere he’s been. He’s made plays everywhere he’s been, and he’s made his team better. He did that today. He came in, made plays, broke tackles, made big catches. That’s the type of guy he is."
Boldin, who had nine catches for 137 yards with a 30-yard touchdown against Washington, has also had to have a short memory when it comes to that devastating hit he absorbed in 2008.
"For me, if I changed the way I play the game, then I don’t need to play this game anymore if I’m thinking about a hit that happened five, six, however long it was," he said. "If I’m thinking about that, then I really don’t need to play this game. I’d rather not be cautious, that’s not the way that I play football. I’m an all-out type of guy, and I just see that hit as just a once-in-a-lifetime incident.
"I’ve been in that situation hundreds of times, and out of those hundreds of times, it’s only happened one time. It’s no big deal to me."