Receiver Boldin turns into quite a catch for Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — God rested on the seventh day, but Anquan Boldin doesn’t have time for that kind of thing.

NFL players are busy on Sunday, games and all. Tuesday is their Sabbath, an off day, to rest and recuperate for the week ahead.

Every player approaches Tuesday differently. Some get massages, other study film and there are always team-organized community events. The dedicated work out, but few with the intensity of Boldin, the 14-year veteran in his first season with the Detroit Lions.

“If you would see his workout on his off day, you’d be absolutely amazed,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said in October. “I’ve seen a couple of our young guys that have tried to hang with him a couple times and afterwards I asked one guy in particular. I said, ‘I bet you won’t do that anymore.’ But he had worked out with him before, this particular young man.”

Brandon Copeland has worked out with Boldin. The chiseled defensive end insists he wasn’t the player who couldn’t hang with the receiver, but has noticed there aren’t many repeat training partners.

“The guys try to go in there and run with him and he doesn’t mind,” Copeland said. “He enjoys it. But he realizes the next week, when he’s lifting or working out by himself, guys are falling back.”

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But it’s not just Tuesday. Boldin goes hard every day. Copeland is amazed by the receiver’s pre-practice routine. While most of the guys are still in the locker room getting suited up, Boldin’s already on the field going through an elaborate stretching and sprinting routine.

“It’s like he’s getting ready for the combine, every day,” Copeland said.

Boldin also has an elaborate maintenance schedule, which includes regular ice baths and time in the sauna. All totaled, it’s why he’s still thriving, 14 years into his career.

One of the most productive receivers in league history, Boldin needs two catches to pass Andre Johnson for 10th place on the all-time receptions list. And with no signs of slowing down, Boldin will likely climb to fourth next year, as long as he stays healthy.

“I’m very impressed, but if you talk to him, he’d probably say it’s really not that hard,” teammate Golden Tate said. “He came in with the old CBA, with two-a-days, where they were hitting non-stop in those practices. Now we have all these rules and regulations, so he’d probably say the league is easy.”

Boldin has been a godsend for the Lions, who have lacked a reliable third receiver for years. Working primarily out of the slot, he’s been a reliable option for quarterback Matthew Stafford, particularly on third downs and in the red zone.

“He’s a very reliable player, somebody I trust, the quarterback trusts,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “When you throw a really tight-window ball to him, he makes that catch more than anybody I’ve ever seen in this league. When he’s really covered, there’s bodies all around him, he makes those catches quite a bit, which has been big for us.

“Third down, big force. In the red zone, big force. “In two-minute, big force in multiple moments this year.”

The Lions first expressed interest in Boldin in May but didn’t sign the receiver until the start of training camp. Even after missing the offseason program and entering a new scheme, it didn’t take long to fit in, much to the surprise of Stafford.

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“He’s been great really since day one, it was pretty incredible just how he stepped in and jumped right in,” Stafford said. “I didn’t know if he was going to, in training camp, take a couple weeks. He’s practicing with the first-string offense day one, and has really not missed a beat since then.”

Boldin has also been valuable in the meeting room. Marvin Jones says everyone gets quiet when Boldin speaks, while Tate said he’s learned a number of new tricks, explaining how Boldin showed him a new way to release off the line to beat a certain defensive back technique.

On the field, he’s been highly productive in Detroit’s weapon-laden offense. He’s third in receptions (52) and fourth in yardage (432), while his six touchdowns lead the team.

“It’s incredible,” Stafford said. “It’s really fun to play with a guy that’s that accomplished and still has such a great hunger for the game. The guy is as competitive as anybody on our team.”

No. 11 and climbing 

Anquan Boldin is closing in on the top 10 among the NFL career receiving leaders.

1. Jerry Rice: 1,549 receptions (1985-2004)

2. Tony Gonzalez: 1,325 (1997-2013)

3. Larry Fitzgerald: 1,106 (2004-2016)

4. Marvin Harrison: 1,102 (1996-2008)

5. Cris Carter: 1,101 (1987-2002)

6. Tim Brown: 1,094 (1988-2004)

7. Terrell Owens: 1,078 (1996-2010)

8. Jason Witten: 1,072 (2003-2016)

9. Reggie Wayne: 1,070 (2001-2014)

10. Andre Johnson: 1,062 (2003-2016)

11. Anquan Boldin: 1,061 (2003-2016)