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Anquan Boldin 'playing to win another championship'

PITTSFORD -- Anquan Boldin wanted to make it clear that sticking around for a 15th NFL season isn't just about a money grab.

The Buffalo Bills gave him a one-year contract Monday worth $2.75 million, but the wide receiver is looking to do much more than pad his bank account. He's seeking a second Super Bowl ring to go along with the one he won with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2012 season.

"I don't think I have anything to prove," Boldin said Tuesday, after his first training-camp practice with the Bills at St. John Fisher College. "For me, it's about leaving a legacy. You want to be in control of your legacy at the end of the day, how things play out, and I think that's where I am in my career.

"I'm also playing to win another championship. That's the reason I play this game, that's the reason I'm here, to try to win the championship. Nothing else."

Prognosticators who are pessimistic about the Bills' fortunes this season -- and there are many -- might give a collective eye roll to that one. They cite a first-year head coach, heavy roster turnover, a quarterback who has yet to demonstrate franchise-level ability, and a tough schedule as the primary reasons the longest playoff drought in sports will extend to an 18th season.

But Boldin stressed that picking the Bills as his fifth NFL employer (after building up a sterling career with the Arizona Cardinals, Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions) was done with eye toward finding a team he felt had a legitimate chance to be a contender.

"I think this team is close enough, if you ask me," Boldin said. "The thing you can't do is try to figure out which team is going to win the Super Bowl. I mean, there's a lot of experts out there that are wrong every year, and I just know that from playing football.

"Some of the best teams I've been on haven't won Super Bowls. There's a lot of variables and there's a lot of factors that go into winning the Super Bowl, and you just have to have some things go right, injuries being one of them. That's something you can't predict."

Still, Boldin had to notice something within the Bills that convinced him they're close to contending. He said all of the predictable things about being comfortable with his July 24 visit to the team's facility, during which he had a good meeting with coach Sean McDermott, and "just liked the direction that everything was headed in."

But what does he see that others don't?

"I think when you get that sense of it, it’s not what you see on the field or in the game," Boldin said. "I think it’s more the stuff that happens in the locker room or when you’re not on the field, when cameras aren’t around, when coaches even aren’t around. It’s the way that guys communicate, the kind of camaraderie that guys have amongst each other, the way that guys push each other – those are the things that probably the media can’t see because you’re not privy enough to those opportunities."

McDermott called the Boldin signing "a good addition for our football team, a good addition for our organization." The receiver, who won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award, is the prototype of the kind of person the coach wants filling his roster.

"I've been around a lot of good players in my career," McDermott said. "Fortunately, I've also been around some good teams, and I know those good teams, one of the common denominators, if you will, are high-character individuals and leadership. And that's also a part of the acquisition of Anquan."

Boldin's impact Tuesday was immediately noticeable. He made a one-handed catch and generally moved with precision and explosiveness. It wasn't long before he was getting reps with the first-team offense. It also wasn't long before he stepped into the huddle and began reciting plays from an offense he's still learning.

"Well, that's because I didn't get any sleep (Monday) night," Boldin said with a smile. "Today went well for a first day, but I've been doing this for quite some time now. You don't put too much into that first day, as far as knowing everything. When you come into a new system, it's still like you're a rookie. You have to learn everything, and I'm still in that process. So I'm still learning, still studying, trying to do extra meetings with my position coach, just trying to get caught up as much as possible."

Before Tuesday, the last pass Tyrod Taylor had thrown to Boldin was during warmups before Super Bowl XLVII when Taylor was the Ravens' backup quarterback. He liked what he saw in the first practice of their reunion.

"Still a great route-runner, of course," said Taylor, who was Boldin's teammate in 2011 and '12. "A guy that has strong hands, was able to display that in a couple one-on-one periods and in team periods. Just a natural catcher in traffic, so definitely excited to have him a part of this team.

"I know what he brings leadership-wise and as far as a player. He definitely brings a lot as a player. I'm excited to have him on board."

After practice, Boldin gathered the receiver group and shared some words of wisdom. He wouldn't reveal exactly what he said, calling it "in-house stuff," but he did target his message to the three rookies at the position: Zay Jones, Daikiel Shorts, and Brandon Reilly.

"Some of those guys, it was their first training camp," Boldin said. "And then in training camp, some guys get tired ... that's just the process of it. But just trying to keep those guys motivated and letting them know that, in spite of how you feel, you have to come out and work every day."

Boldin touched on other topics, including:

Familiarity with Taylor. "That is a sense of comfort there, a guy who I played with for a couple years. Having him be the guy to throw me the ball, it does bring a sense of comfort. ... He's definitely light-years ahead of where he was when he was in Baltimore. He’s definitely more of a leader, his confidence is a lot higher. Not saying that he didn’t have it in Baltimore, but it wasn’t his show in Baltimore. This is his team and he’s taken that upon his shoulders."

What drives him to keep playing. "For me, I still have a passion to play football. And I mean, coming here to Buffalo, I've seen how excited the fans are, how into football they are. I love the culture that's around here. I know some guys that are on this team, I know where their hearts are and how they view football, so I felt like this was a good place for me to be."

His own durability. "You can’t help your team if you aren’t on the field, so that’s something that you definitely have to look into. When I was younger, it’s something that I didn’t pay attention to. I just felt like I could roll out of bed and go perform, but the older you get, the more you have to pay attention to your body, the more you understand your body, what works and what doesn’t work. Hopefully that’s something I can help the younger guys with."

How much longer he wants to play. "Only time will tell. For me, I just take it one year at a time. I think, especially at this point of your career, you can't get too far ahead of yourself. Once I'm committed, I'm all in. And I'll see how the season goes from there and then make a decision in the offseason."

Western New York connections. "I have family in this area. I have family in Buffalo, I have family in Rochester, so definitely well connected in this area."

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