NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bernard Pollard remembers the moment well.
Tennessee and Chris Johnson were running all over his Kansas City Chiefs in October 2008, and he finally had it with Titans right tackle David Stewart. So both men put up their fists, ready to start swinging away. A photographer caught them, and Stewart put a copy of the photo in his locker as a keepsake of the near brawl.
When Pollard, a South Side graduate, joined the Titans this year, Stewart went to his new teammate, photo in hand, for an autograph.
It’s a very cool photo, Pollard said. But when you got 280 yards (rushing) on you; ... I was hot. They did a great job. But to be on the team, for him to be my teammate, to be on a team with him, man it’s a great thing.
It’s always good to have a guy like that on the team, Stewart said.
The Titans certainly are counting on Pollard to lead a defense bouncing back from a horrible season. They gave up a franchise-worst 471 points in 2012, most in the NFL and took advantage of Baltimore’s salary cap purge of a Super Bowl-winning roster by signing the feisty veteran to a one-year contract a week after he was released.
Tennessee’s roster in 2012 was its youngest in years, and the Titans need someone to point the direction back to the playoffs. Cornerback Jason McCourty, whose locker is next to Pollard’s, said the safety brings a certain attitude that comes with being a veteran going into his eighth season with a Super Bowl victory on his résumé.
And he’s a leader, McCourty said. We can look to him and try to get his tone that he sets and kind of just follow. I think that’s huge for our defense. We were missing that last year. Just that guy that brings that aggression, that toughness and that loud voice, I just think that’s going to help us.
Pollard is the guy whose legal helmet-to-helmet hit on New England running back Stevan Ridley forced a late fumble in Baltimore’s AFC championship win in January, and he sprained Rob Gronkowski’s ankle last year also in the AFC title game. Patriots’ fans remember only too well how he hit Tom Brady’s knee in 2008 or his tackle of Wes Welker when the receiver tore his ACL.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray sees Pollard as the player who can get his teammates’ attention.
If there was a turnover and our guys walked on the football field, what attitude you going out there with? Gray said. And if you’re going out with the wrong attitude, you’re probably giving up a touchdown or a field goal, and then you need a guy like him to get the rest of the guys to say, Hey, look. We can’t give up anything, even though the offense did this. We’re on the same team.’ And I think that’s what you do, and you get better.
Pollard, a Purdue product, has made his presence known both on the practice field and in the locker room where he has both his termination letter from Baltimore taped inside his locker along with a message for this season with a note simply stating: GOAL – SUPER BOWL MISSION – KILL !!!
I think everybody knows who I am, and ... that has to be our motto, Pollard said. That has to be what we do. We, and this is going to be the last time I address it, we are not murderers and I should not have to say that because this is football. ... For us we got a helmet and shoulder pads and this is a man’s game. You come across that line, we’re going to slap you. We don’t care about you. That’s what we have to do.
Pollard said the Titans cannot care about hurting any feelings. At the end of the day, we’re looking for wins, Pollard said.
Titans coach Mike Munchak couldn’t have said it better himself.