SAN FRANCISCO -- Anquan Boldin ran off the Candlestick park pitch as soon as it was allowed, because he’s played 10 years and change, because he’s played 141 games, because he’s 32 going on 33, and because he’s caught this many balls and gained this many yards and scored this many touchdowns before.
But mostly, because “I’m a pro. This is my job.”
Boldin didn’t need to linger long after putting his handprint in the wet cement of the Colin Kaepernick Era. He’d made his point, 13 times, for 208 yards and a touchdown. He’d been asked to make his point four additional times, but nobody’s perfect. He was, next to Kaepernick himself, the most indelible figure in San Francisco’s 34-28 win over Green Bay, but he’d be damned if he was going to be made the hero.
“I expected to play well, because we’d prepared all offseason for what Green Bay was going to do,” the wide receiver with the flair for the big premieres said. “Any time Kap throws the ball, I want to make sure it’s completions.”
So it was. On a day when the running games were shut down for further repair, when Green Bay obsessed on the read option to the point of forgetting Kaepernick’s more traditional skill set, and when the defenses made a point of emphasis to talk, walk and mess with their foes, Boldin kept to himself – a good thing for a wide receiver – and killed the Packer secondary with a thousand paper cuts.
True, the biggest discussion point elsewhere would be Kaepernick’s afternoon-long prom date, linebacker Clay Matthews, with whom he developed what could be a career-long hatred. The days-late hit that propelled the 49ers to their second touchdown was part of a slow-developing theme for the 49ers this year – to see how many times a defense can get a clean bead of Kaepernick even if it results in an unclean hit.
[RELATED: Referee admits mistake, 49ers capitalize with TD]
But it is instructive that Kaepernick rose from that play, survived the melee that followed, and found Boldin on the ensuing what-should-have-been-fourth-down play for the second of four go-ahead touchdowns.
Last word on Matthews? Kaepernick delivered it with his usual economy: “If intimidation is your game plan, you need to come up with another one.”
Don’t worry, lad. They won’t. Not until they’re sure this one won’t work, or until they find one that works better. Now, back to the matter at hand.
As much as Kaepernick was downgraded last year for falling in love with Michael Crabtree to the exclusion of all other hands, the fact is he is like all quarterbacks in that he finds something he likes, believes in and can trust. In Boldin, who was almost Prohibition-Era open most of the day, he had Crabtree 2.0. And then some.
Boldin is the safe receiver, the guy who catches in traffic, who runs the right route and breaks it off at the time it needs to be broken off. His down years coincided with the seasons in which he was saddled with injuries or quarterbacks who hadn’t fully trusted in his gifts.
And his up years got him to two Super Bowls. He is, in short, not to be trifled with or ignored.
And yet the 49ers got him for a paltry cost of a sixth round draft choice because the Baltimore Ravens had cap strangulation issues, and he didn’t want to take the massive pay cut the Ravens were offering.
The man is 32. The paydays are coming toward an end. He’s bloody well entitled.
So he went from $7.51 million to $6 million, and he went from Baltimore to San Francisco for, well, nearly nothing. The cost was actually a sixth-round draft pick, which the Ravens sent to Seattle, who sent it to Detroit, who turned it into Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, who played Sunday but did not touch the ball.
“Well, he cost us a draft choice,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said, “and we’re paying him a lot of money. But he’s worth every penny.”
Then, to emphasize how serious he was, he smiled, because that’s what Harbaugh does when he’s trying to be serious. “Every. Penny.”
In the NFL, players aren’t supposed to be told that sort of thing, for fear that they’ll get it into their heads that they should be paid what they’re worth in exchange for their level of sacrifice.
But again, Boldin’s a pro. He knows his value, and he had reached the point where he will damned well have it. He won’t be fooled, or gulled, or bamboozled. He will make himself available a lot, for Kaepernick on those days when the running game sputters, or when linebackers decide to go all semi-felonious, or when there are personal records to be threatened.
But just don’t expect him to linger on the field after a game to bask in them. He’s done this too many times for it to grip him the way it does others.
He’s played 10 years. He’s going to be 33. He’s a pro. And there’s always another game.