There are plenty of story lines heading into Sunday's AFC Championship matchup between the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, but one that may go overlooked is the connection between New England quarterback Tom Brady and Ravens safety Bernard Pollard.
It was Pollard, who as a Kansas City Chief in 2008, ended Brady's season just moments after it began in when he hit Brady below the knee, a hit that ended up tearing the quarterback's ACL and forced him to injured reserve.
Pollard will get another look at Brady and the Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro, and he spoke about the 2008 hit on Wednesday.
"You got to look at it, that's the pretty boy, that's the man of the NFL, that's 'Mr. Do It All,' so everybody wants to hold that against me, but I don't care," Pollard said Wednesday, according to the Ravens' team site.
The hit occurred midway through the first quarter when Pollard, who was on the ground a few yards from Brady, lunged at the quarterback and grabbed at his knee as Brady was stepping into a throw. That hit and the subsequent injury effectively led to a new rule in the NFL about hitting quarterbacks below the knee.
Pollard also touched on the rule change and what it means to the way that he and other defensive players have to play the game now.
"We're conscious of what they're trying to do," he said. "We're conscious of the rules that they're putting in, but at the end of the day, we're going to play football.
"At the end of the day, you've got a second to think about how you're going to tackle somebody. A lot of people don't understand that. You have a second."
Pollard said that the incident didn't necessarily change the way he played at the time, and he doesn't expect it to affect him moving forward, either, especially on Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
"We're dogs with no leashes, that's how it is," he said. "We're not trying to be malicious. We're not malicious. We're not trying to be dirty players, but this is the game. We tackle guys for a living. We know and understand that at any time you can go down, and that's what happened."
Coincidentally, Pollard referenced hits below the knees earlier this season after being fined for a hit that was deemed a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless received in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Like I've said before," he told the Baltimore Sun, "with these rules they're putting in, you're going to get guys hurt because now when you tell a guy, 'OK, don't hit in the chest. We know you can't hit in the head, but don't hit in the chest either,' what everybody is going to start doing is going after people's knee because you've got to bring them down some way, somehow.
"So now you get those hits on the knees, you're going to have some guys going out. So are they trying to make this flag football? You never know. So I think with the rules they're implementing, we've got to be ready to go. We've got to be ready as defenders. We respond, and we react, and we react to them."
The 27-year-old Pollard is in his first season in the Baltimore secondary. He had 75 tackles, a pair of sacks and one interception during the regular season and added five tackles in the Ravens' divisional round win over the Houston Texans last Sunday.