Is Bernard Pollard the Dirtiest Player in the NFL?
Bernard Pollard: A History of Violence
After beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship to advance to Super Bowl XLVII, many have to wonder whether Baltimore’s victory over New England can be linked directly to Safety Bernard Pollard.
Pollard has been known throughout the NFL as being a “dirty player.” He has been fined a number of times for “unnecessary roughness,” and is known for his infamous helmet to knee hits against opposing players. Most notably, against Tom Brady, which sidelined the quarterback for the remainder of the 2008 season with a torn ACL and MCL.
Because of this, a new rule in the NFL was enforced before the 2009 season stating that a defensive player on the ground may no longer lunge or dive at the quarterback's lower legs.”
With every team Pollard has been on throughout the years, he has always seemed to have it out for the Patriots. Whether it be verbally accusing Tom Brady of a “dirty slide with foot up,” or almost ending the stars career, Pollard does not seem to care.
"I could care less about what people have to say," Pollard said. "This is a violent sport. We run fast. We hit hard. Guys are big, and they're getting bigger and quicker year in and year out. For me, I love to play this game. I love to tackle.
Pollard seemed to be on the hunt for another Patriots player during this years Championship game when he laid out running back Stevan Ridley, forcing a fumble and a possible concussion. Ridley had to be carried off the field and didn’t return. With this most recent altercation, lets take a look at Pollard’s “hit list” over the years.
First Victim: Tom Brady
In the first game of the 2008 season, the New England Patriots were set to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Leading the charge for the Patriots was QB Tom Brady. After coming off an almost perfect season, with a 19-0 record, Brady threw for a record setting 50 touchdowns and a surprisingly low 8 interceptions.
In just the 16th offensive play of the game, Brady threw a 28 yard pass to Randy Moss; the last of his season. Pollard lunged at Brady’s knees and hit him with his helmet causing him to tear both his ACL and his MCL. Looking back on the hit, Pollard claims to take pride in it.
“I took pride because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Pollard said. “This is a game where anything can happen. I don’t care about recognition, I don’t care about being the face of the NFL, I’m just blessed to be able to do what I do.”
With no fines being dealt out to Pollard, a new rule was inserted right in time for the 2009 season. “A defensive player on the ground may no longer lunge or dive at the quarterback's lower legs.”
Second Victim: Wes Welker
In the final game of the 2009 season, in the Patriots 4th offensive play, Brady threw up the middle to Wes Welker for a 12 yard gain. But the loss came when Pollard tackled Welker. Wes appeared to land awkwardly and his knees buckled. Like Brady, Welker tore both his ACL and MCL to end his 2010 campaign. Pollard had this to say after the game:
"I heard Wes yell out, the same way I heard Tom yell. It was the same yell. It was terrible. He went down right in front of me. I saw his knee buckle, then I fell on him, and when he went down, I said, 'Just my luck.'
It seemed like Pollard was back to his old tricks; taking out the defenseless legs of opposing receivers. This was the second time that he ended the season of a Patriot player, this time to the Pats top offensive weapon, Wes Welker.
Third Victim: Rob Gronkowski
After having a record breaking season with 17 touchdowns and 1,327 yards, Rob Gronkowski seemed destined for postseason success. Things seemed to be going well for Gronk and crew until the Baltimore Ravens came to town to battle for the AFC Championship. It seemed more like a war.
Trailing Baltimore 20-16 in the third quarter, Brady completed a pass to Gronkowki for 23 yards. Gronk was brought down by the hands of Pollard. Like all of his victims, Pollard lays his opponets out, and then makes sure they can’t get up. Gronk was no exception. The impossible had become possible. The record breaking season of Gronkowski had come to an end and the Patriots chances of making the Super Bowl seemed slim to none. Fortunately the Pats bounced back and won the game 23-20.
It seemed, in the eyes of some, that it was merely a coincidence. Pollard was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and shouldn’t be dubbed the “Patriots Killer". coincidence? I think not.
Fourth Victim: Stevan Ridley
As the Patriots and Ravens were set to square off in the much anticipated rematch for the AFC Championship, they were playing without star receiver Rob Gronkowski. The week prior, Gronk had re fractured his forearm in a game against the Houston Texans.
Minus Gronkowski , many still believed that the Patriots artillery, in the form of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez, would still be enough to beat the Ravens. They were obviously proven wrong.
Behind 28-13 in the 4th quarter, things were not going well for Tom Brady and crew, especially with a weakened running game. In what could have been New England’s last chance in the quarter, momentum seemed to change hands as the Pats began racking up first downs. New England then tried orchestrating the running game, which proved to be a fatal mistake; especially for health of Stevan Ridley.
Ridley was brought down by Pollard with a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit at the Patriots 47, and fumbled the ball. Baltimore recovered and theoretically put the final dagger into the heart of New England in an all around disappointing game for the Patriots.
Fuel was added to the fire as Stevan Ridley laid motionless on the field. He was taken to the locker room and was later diagnosed with a concussion.
Pollard continued getting a little too close for comfort when he aggressively pushed Wes Welker out of bounds. With Pollard’s history of “intentionally” injuring Patriots players, one had to expect Pollard to continue the attack in the AFC Championship. After all, he is a “Patriots Killer”, right?
With no fines being dealt out to Pollard, many have to wonder whether commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL are just “turning their heads” to the matter. They seem more interested in Brady’s “bull crap” kick to ED Reed, as Pollard likes to say. As the NFL continues to hand out unnecessary fines, why not fine someone who deserves it?
For now, we just have wait and see whether the NFL does something on the matter. If not, then expect Pollard to be back to his old tricks sometime in the near future. I hear they're looking for players in New Orleans.