When John Harbaugh was hired as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, he immediately implemented a philosophy that has served as the team's core principle over the past several seasons.
"At the heart of football are three foundations," he said. "First is the TEAM, second is the TEAM, and third is the TEAM. We'll stick with that from beginning to end."
Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin is the veteran leader of the Ravens' receiving corps. The sure-handed wideout has the distinct honor of being the NFL's fastest player ever to 400, 500 and 600 career receiving yards. The venerable Boldin, who has five 1,000-yard receiving seasons and 33 career 100-yard receiving games to his credit, is one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets.
What's the best TEAM that you have ever been a part of?
"I've been on a lot of good teams. The National Championship team my freshman year at Florida State was one of them. The year we went to the Super Bowl at Arizona was another one. I also have to say this year would be my top three. The camaraderie that we have here – it's more than just a team. It's more like a brotherhood. I think that's what you look for in great teams. They have great chemistry. They look out for one another. It's not just about what's on the field, it's off the field as well."
What are some off-the-field activities that help the camaraderie of the TEAM?
"Most importantly, we hang out together. We aren't just teammates; we are friends off the field. There are a lot of things that we do in the offseasons. Guys will go spend time with each other in their hometowns, help out with each other's foundations, have guy weekends … guys are there to support each other. It's things like that that make the difference."
(Editor's note: Anquan Boldin traveled to Ethiopia during the offseason with former teammate Larry Fitzgerald and the international relief organization Oxfam to raise awareness about the severe drought and famine in the region.)
What did you learn from your experience in Africa that you have brought back?
"It taught me so much. In the grand scheme of things, it shows you just how important other people are. You don't want to make yourself any bigger than anyone else. I guess I've always had that in me, always wanting to help. People that are less fortunate than I am, people that don't have as much as I do, just wanting to reach out and help them as much as possible."
What is the best TEAM you have watched?
"My eighth grade year in high school, our varsity basketball team went 25-1, but those guys grew up together. They knew each other since elementary school. They played together, so those guys were like brothers. It showed on the court."
What are three characteristics of a successful TEAM?
"Brotherhood, hard work and discipline."
You talked about successful TEAMS that you were a part of. What do you think you contributed to those TEAMS?
"Leadership – just being there for guys. Even if guys were having bad days, just letting them know that we have their back. It's going to get better. We are a team. We are all in it together. That's what good teams do."
What do you think this year's Ravens TEAM will be like?
"Since I've been here [2010-12], it's been a great team and a great locker room presence, great leadership. The older guys take the younger guys under their wings and show them the way. Our younger guys being willing to listen and learn. This year is nothing different. I think when you have guys like that, you'll always have the ability to compete for a championship."
What characteristic do you have that helps you be a good TEAMmate?
"I just want to win. I think whenever you put the team before yourself, take the selfishness away from it, it puts you in a position where guys see you aren't here for yourself, you are here to win games. Whatever that takes, it if takes me playing quarterback or receiver or anything else, every time I'm not going to be the guy catching the ball, but I am going to be the guy blocking for the guy that catches the ball."
Safety Ed Reed
What do you think Anquan brings to the TEAM from a football standpoint?
"First of all, his leadership. The person that Anquan is … I played against Anquan in college, so I know his physical abilities, the things he can do on the football field. His leading by example is way above most guys. Just the person that Anquan is and the father figure he is. His son A.J. is always around here. The story that he brings to the table from where he came from and the example that he sets on and off the field."
What was it like playing against him?
"It was a battle. He was at my rivalry college (Florida State). It was a battle, because I knew Anquan. He was a man amongst boys. And even now, you can see his strength is like no other. Going against him in college, it was like you didn't want to wake up a beast in that guy. You had to be very conscious of where he was and even now, Anquan is a force to be reckoned with."
In the locker room, what do you see from Anquan from a TEAMmate perspective?
"He's always interacting with everybody. There's not any one person that Anquan wouldn't talk to. If anyone needed help, he's all about the team. He's the ultimate team guy. Whatever he has to do for the team to win, Anquan is all for it."
Wide Receiver Tandon Doss
What makes Anquan a good TEAMmate?
"The fact that he doesn't play for himself; he plays for us. He always wants to help out with us. Any question we have for him technique-wise or just a defensive look, he's always there for us. He's a great veteran leader, and he always brings it."
What is it like having him in the meeting room with you?
"Any odd look [from the defense] we might see, 'Q' knows what's going on. All you have to do is ask him, and he knows what's going on. He's very smart."
What have you learned from Anquan?
"Everything. I watch him all day, every day. His route technique, reading the defense – it's everything. I try to model my game after him."
How does having Anquan on the TEAM make this TEAM better?
"He's a playmaker. He's a very physical guy – exactly what the Ravens are known for. He does a lot of little extra things to help out, making blocks downfield, helping out with the defense when he sees something."
Best advice you have received from Anquan?
"Always work at your craft. Nothing is guaranteed. You can't take days off. You have to work each and every day to get better."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
What makes Anquan a good TEAMmate?
"There are a ton of reasons. He's very unselfish. He's always willing to help guys out. He's one of the harder workers we have, and I think teammates respect that and respond to that. He's very approachable. As great of a player as he is, he doesn't put himself above other guys. He is an all-around good person. He cares about his teammates. I think when a guy cares about his teammates, they feel good about him."
How does having Anquan on our TEAM benefit us as a TEAM?
"No. 1, he's a playmaker. He makes plays in critical situations. The fourth down at Pittsburgh last year, if he didn't make that play, we wouldn't have won that game. He always makes plays when needed, but he also does all the little things that most people don't notice. He is one of the better blocking receivers in this league, and no one ever talks about that. You just combine all of those things, and that's what he's about."
What memory sticks out in your mind when thinking about Anquan being a good TEAMmate?
"The Arizona game last year is the first thing that pops in my mind. It was the largest deficit [21 points down] we have overcome in this organization, and he did it almost single-handedly. Obviously, it was his old team, but I saw him raise his level of play because we needed it. The great players in this league are at their best when their best is needed. Anytime we need his best, he gives it to us. That's what's ingrained in my mind when I think about him."