When we talk about the best players in the history of the Baltimore Ravens franchise over the last 20 years, outside linebacker Peter Boulware rarely enters the conversation. We always talk about Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Chris McAlister, Rod Woodson and even Bart Scott. But we never really talk about Boulware.
Boulware, selected by the Ravens with the fourth overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft, was the first true pass rusher the Ravens ever had. Some may forget that Boulware was the Ravens original all-time sack leader with 70 when he retired after the 2005 season. Boulware, in his time with the franchise was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and was named NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1997.
During the 2014 season, Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil broke the Ravens single season sack record with 17. Do you know who held that record before Dumervil? Boulware did with 15 sacks during the 2001 season.
Some people could debate whether or not Boulware is the third best linebacker the Ravens have ever had behind Lewis and Suggs. In my opinion, there is no debate in that regard, he is ranked in the top three.
Boulware was instrumental for the Ravens defense, especially from 1999-2003 when he registered 50.5 sacks (including playoffs) that's an average of 10.1 sacks a season.
Unfortunately, Boulware's career was cut short after he suffered a knee injury in week 16 of the 2003 season on the road against the Cleveland Browns as he was going for a tackle in the backfield. The injury was troubling on two additional fronts. One, Boulware suffered the injury late in the season so it not only forced him to miss the 2003 postseason, but it forced him to miss the entire 2004 season as well.
When you talk about players playing through pain for the Baltimore Ravens, Boulware needs to be one of the first five people you talk about. Whether it was playing with a dislocated shoulder, dealing with ankle and knee injuries, Boulware did it. He also played through the pain when he helped aid the Ravens record setting defense in 2000.
From an overview of Boulware's career, he was so critical to the Ravens pass rush and his absence played a big role in the Ravens losing in the 2003 AFC Wild Card round against the Tennessee Titans at home 20-17.
Ravens backup outside linebacker at the time, Cornell Brown took Boulware's place and while Brown did a respectable job against the Titans, he could never replace the pass rush that Boulware provided while going up against a co-NFL MVP at the time in Steve McNair. I honestly believe that if Boulware was healthy for that playoff game, the Ravens would have beaten the Titans.
The Ravens have had a lot of great talent on defense over the last 20 years so sometimes players can slip through the cracks in conversations. But Boulware should never be overlooked in any conversation when discussing the history of the Ravens defense.