Each week, we bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player, coach or team executive to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is strong safety Bernard Pollard.
You've been a starter since 2007, your second year in the NFL. How did you cope with backing up Tom Zbikowski here?
The biggest thing about it is, I know and understand my skills. I know and understand what I have to offer. One of my concerns involved me coming over from a 4-3 system my whole career to a 3-4 system. I was adjusting. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I wasn't as confident as I was in the 4-3. But other than, for me, being able to kind of soak things up, it hurt. It hurt, but at the same time, I'm more of a team player than anything. It's not about me. This game is bigger than me. So me understanding that and just the patience, I trust and believe in God. He opened this door for me. So I'm just excited to be able to be in the position that I'm in. I've been done worse. I've been done worse, I really have. To wait three games, it hurt, but like I said, you've got to pass some tests.
Was there ever a part of you that had wished you had joined a different team for a potential starting opportunity there?
I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about some things like that. One of the biggest things was I talked with [inside linebacker] Ray [Lewis]. The guy is just phenomenal in every aspect — as a man, as a teammate, as a leader, as a friend. The guy knows and understands. I talked with [free safety] Ed [Reed], and I'm not just picking these guys because they're big names on this team. I talked to them and just to talk to them, I understand, and they understood what I was going through. Sometimes I would look back and be like, "But I'm the one sitting back, and you all are on the field." Any competitor wants to get out and help his team win. Like I said, I've been done worse. I waited three weeks, and now I'm in there.
With regard to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, are there other players who have influenced you in your football career?
In Kansas City, it was [guard] Brian Waters. Brian was a great teammate. My rookie and second year with [quarterback] Trent [Green]. Trent did a great job, and it helped that he went to IU [Indiana University] and his wife is actually from Fort Wayne [Pollard's hometown]. I've been around a lot of guys, I really have, that I was able to learn so much from. [Cornerback] Pat Surtain, all of these guys helped me understand how to be a pro at all times. You have to be ready to go at all times. I know and understand that, I believe it, I trust in it. I trust in God, and I trust that He's always going to have the best answer for me. I can't take things upon myself because when you do that, that's when things mess up.
How would you describe your transition to the Ravens' 3-4 alignment?
It's difficult because in a 4-3, you have gap control. I controlled the A gap or I controlled the B gap or I controlled the C gap. It just depended on motions and formations. Now coming here with the front seven controlling the gap, I've got to speak with the other safety and corners and linebackers at all times. It gets difficult because sometimes I'm like, "So hold on, I wanted that gap on a run." But I've got to remind myself all the time that I can't do that. In some 4-3 systems, we don't re-load [alter defensive formations based on the offense's alignment]. Here, you re-load. I'm not used to re-loading, so I've got to take the things I've been taught and kind of put them on the back burner. I have to be like a sponge. It's almost like being a rookie again. I've only been here, what, two months and some change. I'm still learning. I'd be lying if I said I had it all. I don't have it all, and I don't want to have it all because I don't want to be done learning. I feel like when so many people say, "I've learned everything," or "I don't need to be taught anything," that's when the time is over for you. So I'm excited. I continue to stay excited, and I'm ready to play.
When the Houston Texans elected to allow you to test the free-agent market, you were posed as the scapegoat for the defense ranking last in the NFL against the pass. Was that unfair?
Very unfair. One guy doesn't give up 400 yards passing. One guy doesn't give up 500 yards passing. One guy doesn't give up 200 yards passing. Like I told so many people, if you don't understand the game, if you don't know what we called, if you don't know what we're supposed to do, then don't say anything. Like I told them, you all used me as a scapegoat, but I'm not the only one. I played with nine different corners, I played with 12 different linebackers, I played with four different free safeties last year. Cycling through all those players, you've got to get united with those guys. You have to know what's going on and you have to be on the same page. Well, that wasn't the case. We battled injuries, we lost every way we could have in the National Football League. Like I told them, if you look at 2009 and then you go to 2010, it was a big difference. You get rid of a top cornerback [Dunta Robinson] that we had, and then you bring in a rookie and everybody in the secondary was one or two years, you've got savvy veterans [on opposing offenses] that will take advantage of that because they don't know the ins and outs of the game. So they took advantage of us. It was one of those things. We had injuries, but that's fine. It's done and over with, and I'm in Baltimore now, and I'm having a blast. This is where God blessed me and my family to be.
Do you realize how much you endeared yourself to Ravens fans when you didn't back down from Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward in the season opener?
That was a lot of fun. Just hearing from a lot of people, that seems to be where everybody knows me from. I keep getting, "What were you guys arguing about?" I'm the type of player who's not going to back down from a scuffle. I'm not going to back down from anybody, and I'm going to fight with the best of them. I'm going to give my all for the other 10 guys on that field and for my teammates. Like I tell so many people, [No.] 31 is going to be in that skirmish somewhere. Every guy in this locker room will fight for the other man. Everybody plays for each other. That's the great thing about this organization. That's why I made the decision to come here.
Who is the toughest running back you've had to tackle?
The toughest running back I've had to tackle is [the New York Giants'] Brandon Jacobs, probably. He's big, powerful, speed, everything. The dude can run. To me, he just brings it. He's one of those players where you better bring the whole house to tackle him. That's a lot fun, playing guys like him.
One of your more memorable highlights occurred in 2007 when cameras from HBO's "Hard Knocks" series captured you dancing in the locker room. You still got it?
Oh man, I've still got it. I'm telling you, I can move, man. I tell so many people, we had a blast when "Hard Knocks" was there. They kind of caught me off-guard because a lot of people don't understand what was going on or what had happened. It's a long story, but nevertheless, everybody saw what I'm capable of. Everybody tried to get me to break it down in the locker room, but like I told them, it's one of those things where I've got to keep "Chocolate Therapy." That's my other name, my alter ego. I've got to keep that in the box.
I've got so many alter egos. I'm a guy who loves to have fun. You might catch me one time [dancing] maybe later in the season.
Is there a Ravens player who can match your dancing skills?
No. Nobody can touch me. Nobody can touch me because I can get nasty with it or I can keep it classy. Most of the time, it's "Chocolate Therapy" getting down.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times