Owings Mills, Md. – Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck has another admirer from Indiana, but this endorsement carries more weight than the Average Joe.
“This dude is way beyond his years,” says Fort Wayne native Bernard Pollard, 28, a veteran safety in the National Football League with the Baltimore Ravens. “He is a very talented and very smart quarterback. He can make plays with his arm and his legs.”
Pollard, the former South Side High and Purdue star, will get his first up close look at Luck this season when his Ravens host the Colts on Sunday at 1 p.m. in an AFC playoff game in Baltimore.
“We have to do our best and get in his face and compete,” said Pollard, standing by his locker before practice on Wednesday in suburban Baltimore.
“He is a winner, first of all. His stats are phenomenal. I think he set some rookie passing yard records. You can tell he is very smart. He takes a number of play options to the line as a rookie, which he did at Stanford as well. He's a Stanford guy – 4.0 [GPA],” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told reporters about Luck.
So does Pollard get extra motivation facing the team from his home state?
“It is another game for me to be honest with you. It is another game to go out and play the game God has allowed me to play,” said Pollard, who is a committed Christian. “This game will allow us to move forward or pack our bags.”
It an interesting twist there will be two playoff games held Sunday in Maryland, about 40 miles apart, and three of the four starting quarterbacks will be rookies.
After the Ravens host Luck and the Colts, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will entertain Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in Landover, Md.
So it becoming easier for a rookie quarterback to start in the NFL or is this a special class?
“This is a special class with quarterbacks,” Pollard said. “You can look at the backup with the Redskins, Kirk Cousins, and that guy is good. Everyone says RG3 is the best but that Wilson guy and that Luck guy are very good quarterbacks. It is great when you see three rookie quarterbacks lead their team to the playoffs.”
Baltimore lost to the Redskins, who played Griffin and Cousins, 31-28 in overtime on Dec. 9. The Ravens have lost four of their last five games. Joe Flacco, the Baltimore quarterback, is in his fifth season.
Pollard, a seventh-year safety out of Purdue, was injured and did not play on Sunday in a loss at Cincinnati in the regular-season finale. He is expected to play on Sunday against the Colts.
“I was able to rest by body. It was tough to go out there and see my teammates play,” he said. “I am ready to go. It is going to be fun when I step out there.”
He played in 13 games (all starts) this year and had a team-high 98 tackles and one interception and two sacks. In his second year with the Ravens, Pollard played three years with Kansas City and two with Houston before coming to Baltimore.
Pollard has played in 105 regular-season games in his career with 576 tackles. He has played in three playoff games with two starts.
“Bernard showed last year he is a Raven,” Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome says in the Ravens' media notes. “He's smart, tough and brings a passion to the game, our practices and in the weight room. His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense.”
Another key to the Baltimore defense has been All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced his retirement on Wednesday. He will step away after the playoffs following 17 years in the NFL.
“He has won a Super Bowl. He has been through thick and thin. He is a guy that I respect,” Pollard said a few minutes after Lewis told the media of his plans. “He is a Hall of Famer. Not very people can say they played with a Hall of Famer.”
Pollard has been selected as a Pro Bowl alternate this season.
“Honestly, I want to play in Louisiana,” he said of the site of the upcoming Super Bowl. “I thank God all of the time. I go out and play football. I don't get caught up in all the (extra stuff). If it was up to me I would rather be a starter than an alternate.”
Pollard, drafted in the second round out of Purdue in 2006 by the Chiefs, began his NFL career with Kansas City that year. After three years with the Chiefs, where he played in 16 games each season, he went to Houston for the 2009 campaign and had four interceptions that year.
In his second year with the Texans in 2010, Pollard started 15 games and led the team in tackles with 112. Pollard was all-state at South Side as he had 111 tackles and two interceptions as a senior. He also caught 14 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns that year. Pollard also played basketball and ran track in high school.
This is the fifth straight season Baltimore has made the playoffs under Harbaugh and Flacco. The Ravens ended regular-season play 10-6 after a 23-17 loss on Sunday at Cincinnati. Baltimore was already secured of the third seed in the AFC playoffs no matter the outcome of the game.
“I feel great about where we are at. I'm very excited about our team right now,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday. “I like us a lot. I've liked us all year.”