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Niners receiver Boldin set to face old Arizona team

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — His black hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head and covering most of his face, Anquan Boldin stood at his locker Thursday staring back at a dozen or so reporters with a serious expression.

No reason to dress up or soak in the spotlight. Boldin said it's "just another week."

Sure it is.

The wide receiver will be facing his former Arizona team for the second time Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers (3-2) host the Cardinals (3-2) in an NFC West showdown. Boldin spent his first seven seasons with Arizona before being traded to Baltimore for two draft picks following the 2009 season.

Boldin also downplayed the reunion leading up to his first meeting against the Cardinals in 2011 in Baltimore. He took out any lingering feelings on the field, catching seven passes for 145 yards to rally the Ravens past Arizona 30-27.

Boldin sees no reason to be sentimental this week. After all, he said, the franchise he played for in Arizona — and helped lead to the Super Bowl after the 2008 season, when the Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers — has had so many changes it's almost unrecognizable now.

"I don't know any of those guys. Probably about two guys remain," Boldin said.

Plenty has changed for him as well since his days in the Arizona desert.

Boldin won the Super Bowl with the Ravens in February. He was traded to the NFC champion 49ers in the offseason for a sixth-round draft pick in a cost-cutting move by Baltimore. And at age 33, he's become Colin Kaepernick's No. 1 target with so many injuries to other wide receivers, notably Michael Crabtree, who will be out until at least November rehabbing a torn right Achilles tendon.

"Anquan has been everything we expected and then some," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

Boldin leads San Francisco with 26 receptions and 393 yards. But he has caught just one touchdown pass since the season opener, when he had 13 catches for 208 yards and a score in a win over Green Bay.

What the 49ers love most about Boldin is that, whether the team wins or loses, his demeanor never changes. The same qualities that defined him earlier in his career— he's smart, savvy and plays with an attitude — are still a driving force in the locker room and in the huddle in San Francisco.

"Sometimes it kind of comes off as quiet or even a little angry, but he's just serious about winning and serious about his job and I love that about him," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said on a conference call with Arizona reporters this week. "I really don't think I exaggerate this when I say it, but with the kind of presence that he has, he would very much make a great senator. I think Senator Boldin is something that could be in his future because he cares about people, he's very smart and he's got extremely high character."

San Francisco will settle for what Boldin has done on the field for now.

Boldin's production this season has been tied mostly to the health of tight end Vernon Davis, who has 14 receptions for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Boldin's best games have come when Davis played — and played well — to ease the pressure from the constant double-teams defenses throw at one of them.

That was a familiar script during Boldin's time in Arizona, too. He teamed with Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald to form one of the NFL's best tandems.

The two still found success without each other. And they remain friends off the field, including going to Africa on a relief mission this offseason. But Sunday will be different.

"This will probably be the first time that I don't want to see him go completely off," Fitzgerald told Arizona reporters.

Boldin has spoken fondly of his time in Arizona, though he was in no mood to reminisce Thursday. Even though he has played for three different teams, he said his career has stayed on track since he was selected in the second round out of Florida State in 2003 by the Cardinals.

"Me being drafted at Arizona didn't change what my expectation is," Boldin said. "It's played out pretty much the way that I thought it would."