OWINGS MILLS, Md. In the Baltimore Ravens' locker room, Bernard Pollard blends into the background.
Terrell Suggs, the veteran linebacker, has a daily habit of cranking up the volume on his stereo system to a decibel level that could be described as "ear bleeding," although it barely manages to drown out his own voice. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones sings. Linebacker Ray Lewis shrieks.
It is a noisy place, packed with personalities. And then there is Pollard, a strong safety who generally keeps to himself until game day, when he channels a boatload of inner rage into hits that render unusually large human beings into lesser versions of themselves.
"Guys are afraid to run across the middle against him," defensive end Arthur Jones said.
Last Sunday, in the Ravens' 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship, Pollard reinforced his reputation as a man who hurts people Patriots in particular. In the fourth quarter, running back Stevan Ridley lowered his helmet and struck Pollard head-on, Ridley's body going limp as he fumbled. The Ravens recovered the ball and later scored to cement a berth in the Super Bowl against the 49ers.
Ridley was merely the latest member of the Patriots organization to sustain an injury after being hit by Pollard, joining the likes of Tom Brady (knee, 2008), Wes Welker (knee, 2010) and Rob Gronkowski (ankle, 2012). Pollard, a seventh-year veteran, said there was never any malicious intent.
"This is a violent sport," he said, adding: "I ask you the question: If I came to your house with the doors locked, and I just kicked it down and tried to steal stuff, you're going to defend your house, right? So that's the stand I take. We got grass behind us, and we have an end zone that we have to defend."
Pollard doesn't try to intimidate people, he said. It just seems to happen. Last week, when he discovered that a television reporter had borrowed the chair from his locker so he could interview another player, Pollard glared at him.
"I'm going to use my fist on you!" he said. Then he smiled. "I'm joking, man. Don't sue me."
(The reporter, for the record, looked terrified.)
Ryan Moats, a former running back who was a teammate of Pollard's on the Houston Texans, said Pollard's primary mode of self-expression was yelling not because he is angry but because this apparently is the only way he knows how to communicate.
Moats said he once tried to explain to Pollard that normal people talk, especially on the phone. It didn't do much good.
"Very confident individual," said Moats, who compared the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Pollard to former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who carried himself with the same relentless tenacity.
"There are very few people in the game who are like that, where it just pours out of them."
Moats, who runs his own graphics design company, recently teamed with Pollard to design an iPhone app based on the card game bourré. As one can imagine, Pollard was extremely hands-on.
He knows what he wants and how he wants it, said Moats, who could not recall Pollard conceding failure, not once, not at anything.
"And that's the way he plays the game," Moats said. "He's one of the most sure tacklers I've ever gone up against. He's going to get a piece of you every time, all the time. He's going to do everything he can to get you on the ground. It's his passion.
Befitting his growing stature in the league, Pollard has multiple nicknames. He has been known to refer to himself as Chocolate Therapy (for his dance moves) and as the Bonecrusher (for obvious reasons). He has even been called a "Christian thug."
When Pollard was younger, authority figures sometimes struggled to keep him in line.
Joe Tiller, his former coach at Purdue, said Pollard was "not the easiest guy to manage." When Pollard was a junior, he and Tiller got into a highly publicized shouting match during a preseason practice. As Pollard left the field, Tiller extended the length of Pollard's suspension each time he opened his mouth: one day, two days, three days.
"He's a high-intensity guy," Tiller said in a phone interview, "and I doubt that's changed."
Pollard remains a man of extremes, and unapologetically so. He is not in the business of making friends.
"I really don't care if you like me," he said. "I really don't care if you don't like the things I say. It's not going to stop me from being who I am."