Patriots nemesis Bernard Pollard says Ravens have no fear
BALTIMORE -- Bernard Pollard said he doesn't care that he's facing Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro.
As the Ravens safety sees it, Sunday's AFC Championship Game is just the next game on the schedule and Gillette Stadium just happens to be the next stop on the Ravens' run to the Super Bowl.
Much has been made about the Ravens traveling into hostile territory to take on the Pats. But Pollard and his teammates were quick to point out yesterday that they're not afraid of Patriot Place.
"To any football player who's intimidated of anybody -- you're a coward, you're a punk, you shouldn't be playing this game," he said. " . . . We don't fear no man, we fear no team."
Pollard isn't exactly a fan favorite in New England. In Week 1 in 2008 at Gillette, his lunge caused a season-ending injury to Brady's left knee. In last year's AFC Championship Game, Pollard's tackle injured the left ankle of star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who wasn't himself against the Giants in the Super Bowl.
The Ravens expressed nothing but respect for the Patriots, as players noted the difficult challenge that awaits them. They highlighted the Pats' high-powered offense (even without the injured Gronkowski), their improved secondary and their league-best home record since 2002 (73-15 regular season). Add to that, Bill Belichick is 18-7 (.720) in the playoffs.
"He knows how to win," Pollard said of the Patriots' coach. "But that don't scare us. We want to outhit you, we want to outplay you and we want to go to the Super Bowl."
According to ESPN, No. 4 seeds are 6-1 in conference championship games since the current seeding system was introduced in 1990. The second-seeded Patriots are 7-1 in AFC title games, including a 23-20 win over the Ravens last year. But Sunday will be different, Anquan Boldin said.
"Cuz we'll make it different," the Ravens wide receiver said. "We're gonna win."
Several Ravens said the difference this year lies in their renewed focus, adding that they have demonstrated resilience throughout an up-and-down season.
"As a team, the whole vibe is just different," wideout Torrey Smith said. "I can't really explain it, but it's different."
Smith complimented the Patriots for "beating folks down the past two weeks," but added, "we're definitely not scared, we're not shying away from it."
The early line favors the Patriots by 9 points, but challenging big odds is nothing new for fullback Vonta Leach, who went undrafted out of East Carolina in 2004.
"I've been an underdog my whole life," he said with a smile. "What's one more day?"