PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Rookie receiver Zay Jones’ enthusiastic youthful remark was Anquan Boldin’s reminder that he’s not getting any younger.
The 36-year-old Boldin’s first day of practice with the Buffalo Bills was moving along smoothly until being informed of Jones’ statement coming off the field on Tuesday.
“It’s unbelievable,” the 22-year-old second-round pick said. “I was just talking to Anquan, and it’s funny because his rookie year in the league, I was only 6 years old.”
Boldin rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“I played with Emmitt Smith my rookie year, and I used to give him heat about having his rookie card and all that stuff,” Boldin said of the Hall of Fame running back who was his teammate in Arizona in 2003 and ’04. “I guess it’s just me getting it back.”
Once the laughter subsided, Boldin made clear he didn’t sign a one-year contract with the Bills a day earlier to spend time reminiscing on his past 14 NFL seasons. He is instead looking ahead to spending his 15th season to cement his place as one of the league’s top receivers.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove,” he said. “But for me it’s about leaving a legacy.”
To him that means winning, something Boldin believes can happen in Buffalo on a team in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. “I think this team’s close if you ask me,” he said.
It also means taking on a leadership role in being an on- and off-field mentor for Buffalo’s young crop of receivers such as Jones and Sammy Watkins.
“Hopefully, I can help him take his game to the next level,” Boldin said, referring to Watkins, whose first three seasons have been sidetracked by injuries .
“But honestly that all depends on him,” Boldin added. “The only thing I can do is share my experiences and give him advice about different things I’ve been through.”
Running back LeSean McCoy believes Boldin can be an important influence to Watkins.
“Sammy’s been a player who’s playing off talent,” McCoy told The Associated Press. “I think getting him veteran leaders that lead him in the right direction would be good for him.”
Watkins was on board in welcoming the NFL’s 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and someone who ranks in the top four among active receivers with 1,076 catches, 13,779 yards receiving and 82 touchdowns receiving.
“He’s a great asset to the team,” Watkins said. “I can grow and learn from him. He can help me mentally and physically.”
Boldin joined the Bills after spending last season with Detroit, where he had 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games. He mostly lined up in the slot and was used in a short-yardage possession role.
The Bills will likely use him in a similar fashion in working the middle of the field to attract attention away from their outside threats.
Boldin showed no indication he’s lost a step after spending the entire offseason waiting to land a job. During an individual drill, Boldin easily maneuvered through a number of pylons and made a one-handed catch just before running out of bounds. During a one-on-one session, he burst off the line as if going deep, and then made a quick cut across the middle ahead of cornerback James Charles and reached back to catch Tyrod Taylor’s pass that was a little off-target.
Boldin and Taylor already have a past connection: Taylor was Joe Flacco’s backup during Boldin’s three seasons in Baltimore from 2010-12.
Not only did Boldin catch Taylor’s first pass attempt, Taylor remembers playing catch with Boldin during pre-game warmups before the Ravens beat San Francisco in the 2013 Super Bowl.
“We know that he brings another aspect to our game that can make us even more dangerous,” Taylor said. “From a team standpoint, just the leadership that we can use, that we need on this team to help us get where we want to.”
Boldin is driven to succeed because he’s not sure how many more years he has left.
“Only time will tell,” Boldin said, regarding his future. “At this point in your career you can’t get too far ahead of yourself, so I just take it a year at a time. Once I’m committed, I’m all in.”