Buffalo Bills receivers coach Tyke Tolbert will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline when the Arizona Cardinals visit Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.
Tolbert coached the Cardinals' receivers last season. Among them was Anquan Boldin, the 2003 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the only rookie to make the Pro Bowl.
Boldin has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in training camp, but he's expected to make his regular-season debut Sunday. He was upgraded from questionable to probable Thursday.
"Anquan called me earlier in the week, and he told me he was going to play this week," Tolbert said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him. Hopefully, he won't have the impact he thinks he's going to have coming into the game."
Although Tolbert is rooting against his former protege Sunday, he is proud of what Boldin accomplished last season. The former Florida State star set an NFL rookie record with 101 receptions, and his 1,357 yards was the second-highest total ever for a rookie.
He made a smashing debut with 10 catches for 217 yards, the most ever for a rookie in his first game, in the 2003 opener at Detroit.
"To see what he accomplished in his first year was beyond all of our expectations," Tolbert said. "We knew he was going to be a good player, but to have such an impact so early was a great deal for him and the whole Cardinals organization. I'm very proud of him, and I hope he has a good year after this week."
Tolbert's success with young receivers has followed him to Buffalo. The Bills drafted Lee Evans with the 13th overall pick in the spring and he is quickly developing into a major offensive weapon.
After spending the past seven months with Tolbert, Evans said he's not surprised that Boldin had such a successful rookie year.
"Tyke has taught me a lot as far as learning coverages, knowing what I'm seeing and things I can expect from week to week with different teams that play us differently," Evans said. "He stays after practice and gives me different tips. I couldn't ask for a better coach in my first year in the league."
Tolbert knows the position because he played it. He was a three-year letterman at LSU. He got into coaching as a graduate assistant at LSU in 1994 and spent time at several other colleges, coaching receivers and tight ends before landing his first NFL job with the Cards last year.
"From talking to Anquan, I know Tyke had a big hand in his success by pushing him hard every day and letting him know the importance of hard work," said veteran receiver Eric Moulds. "He's very energetic. A guy makes a play, and he's running 50 yards down the field screaming and telling him to finish the play. He does a great job."
Tolbert said his biggest joy in coaching is watching a young player reach his full potential.
"It's fun because they haven't established themselves in the league yet and they're hungry for knowledge," he said. "To be able to teach and see those guys go out there and produce on the things you taught them, that's very fulfilling."
There were no changes on the Bills' injury report. Cornerback Terrence McGee (ankle), wide receiver Drew Haddad (hamstring) and offensive tackle Marcus Price (knee) are still questionable. Center Trey Teague (leg) and cornerback Troy Vincent (knee) worked out on the side and did some light running. Both are still doubtful for Sunday.
At 6-foot-6 and 360 pounds, Bills offensive tackle Mike Williams is as big as they come. Almost. The Cardinals also feature a hulking offensive tackle in 6-6, 381-pound Leonard Davis.
Williams and Davis were teammates at the University of Texas, where they routinely blocked out the sun as much as undersized defenders.
Davis has weighed at least 370 pounds since high school, thus earning the appropriate nickname "Big."
"His real nickname is Big Monster," Williams said. "He's Big Monster and I'm Big Mike. Either way you look at it, we're both big."
The Bills did not sell out their remaining tickets before the 1 p.m. deadline Thursday and the game will not be televised locally. The team had sold out its last 11 home games. There are 6,500 tickets left.