Sure, he told Pro Football Talk on NBCSN he’d play for the Ravens or no one. But when the Ravens wanted to cut his pay for the coming season from $6 million to $4 million, Boldin opted to continue his career in the division where it began, with the 49ers.
And the Niners now need him, due to the ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by receiver Michael Crabtree. While Boldin doesn’t have the speed to duplicate Crabtree, Boldin gives quarterback Colin Kaepernick something that he had found in Crabtree: Reliability.
The team already has gotten a glimpse of that during OTAs, and coach Jim Harbaugh has noticed.
“Well, very impressed,” Harbaugh told reporters on Tuesday regarding Boldin. “Today, you got a good look at what he’s been doing. Really picked up the system fast and making plays. Big catches in tight areas. You saw what we’ve been seeing for a couple of weeks now, very good.”
It’s what the Niners and Kaepernick saw in the Super Bowl. When in doubt, throw it in Boldin’s general direction, and he’ll go get it. As Kaepernick tries to adapt to life (for at least six months) without Boldin, that’s an important skill to have.
Harbaugh acknowledged that, in Tuesday’s practice, the ball went to Boldin a lot, via plays designed for him. That could be a hint of what’s to come.
For now, the 49ers are letting younger players compete at the “X” position, with Boldin and other more experienced players lining up in the “Z” position.
When it’s time to play games that count, look for Boldin to regularly be on the field, and to regularly be getting the ball thrown in his direction.