Understanding Boldin’s anger

Late Sunday night, Cards’ WR Anquan Boldin caused some waves by calling out head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff — saying they weren’t “man enough” to let him know he would be inactive for their game against the Bears at Solider Field.

The comments made news because Boldin is a key piece of the first-place Cardinals and because they came on the heels of an Arizona blowout win over the Bears in which QB Kurt Warner threw five TDs despite Boldin’s absence.

Again, many blogs started to point a finger at Boldin. His contract issues were brought back to the surface, and we started to see the overwhelming opinion that Boldin was a “me-first” type of player.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the comments, but I can empathize with Boldin.

Half of winning and producing in this league has to do with the mental preparation of the players, and the roster spots for the active game-day players are big. If a coach dresses a player who can’t last four quarters, the team is in a pinch. They are suddenly down a man, and that affects not only offenses and defenses, but also special teams. It’s a chess match of sorts between the coaching staff and the 45 active players who are going to dress on Sunday.

And Boldin — despite the fact he thought he could go — was one of those players. Whisenhunt made the move for the rest of this season and for Sunday — because if Boldin couldn’t produce like he normally does, then the Cards are down a man at wide receiver and their game plan is suddenly altered.

But the reality is that players don’t look at it that way. Every guy who comes to the stadium on Sunday thinks he’s good to go — no matter what lingering injury he might have. He spends the week studying and preparing for game action, watches film, lifts weights and goes to the hotel the night before expecting to play.

But an hour and a half before kickoff, the head coach has to make the decision about who’s going to dress. I experienced it myself when coming off of an injury in 2005 with the ‘Skins. I had my knee drained and felt good enough to play, only to see my gear taken out of my locker an hour an a half before we played the Bucs — on wild-card weekend. A team-issued sweat suit replaced my helmet, shoulder pads and jersey.

Like any other player would have been, I was hot. I thought I could go, and even though we went out and beat the Bucs to advance, part of me was still pretty hot when we got on the plane to head back to D.C. — because I felt that I was robbed of an opportunity to play.

Fast forward to the divisional round. We head out to Seattle — two days before kickoff — and I have no idea what to expect. Am I up or down? How do I prepare -- to sit or to play in the game? Exactly one and a half hours before kickoff, special teams coach Danny Smith comes to my locker and tells me, “You’re up.”

Your mind begins to race, and you spend the little time you have left before kickoff mentally preparing yourself to go into action.

Sure, it’s different for Boldin because he is a Pro Bowl wideout, but in reality, the situation, the competitive nature and the passion to play are all the same.

Should he have held back on his comments? Of course, but just like any player, sometimes that competitive nature spills over into the locker room and into the microphone of the team’s beat reporter.

It’s a little part of Sunday’s that doesn’t get talked about often because most of the stars are always on the game-day roster. But in this case, Boldin became like many other guys who today are wondering how to prepare and wondering if they’re going to see their gear in their locker on Sunday or team-issued sweats — along with a sideline cap and a bag of sunflower seeds.

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Check out the Arizona Cardinals team page at the NFP.

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