Wally Williams considers himself a center, now and in the future. And if the Ravens eventually decide to move Williams to left guard -- a position he has played effectively -- Williams said he would not agree with the decision, but still would accept it.
According to Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, Williams has nothing to worry about, since the team plans to keep him as the anchor of its offensive line.
"He is the center in our minds right now," Marchibroda said of Williams, whom the Ravens are hoping to sign to a long-term deal soon. "With Wally, there's a luxury, knowing he can play guard. And that possibility exists, if something happens [injuries on the line]. But Wally is our center."
Said offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz: "Wally has value, in that he has played guard, but we see him as a center because that's what he does best."
Williams' versatility is a big reason he survived as a free-agent rookie out of Florida A&M in 1993, when he signed with the Cleveland Browns. Williams spent the 1994 and 1995 seasons as a guard and a backup to first-round draft pick Steve Everitt at center, then replaced an injured Everitt down the stretch of the 1996 season. He became the starting center last year, after Everitt signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
An off-season Achilles' tendon injury sidelined Williams for the first six games of 1997, but he played well upon returning to the center spot.
"Whatever they decide to do with me, they'll decide, but I really want to play center," Williams said. "Guard is something I had to play in my first few years to give them a feel of what I could do. But center is my best position. I definitely want to stay there."
Having lost veteran Quentin Neujahr to Jacksonville, the Ravens are hoping second-year center Jeff Mitchell emerges as a strong backup to Williams. Mitchell, a fifth-round draft pick out of Florida, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the first week of training camp.
The most unsettled position on the offensive line remains left guard, where the Ravens have given up on veteran Leo Goeas. They are counting on a dependable starter to emerge from a group that includes Ben Cavil, Sale Isaia, Spencer Folau, Mike Flynn and Alex Bernstein.
Out of those five, only Cavil has any measurable experience. He started eight games at left guard in 1997 after the Ravens acquired the seventh-round draft pick in a trade with Philadelphia.
The Ravens also might seek a guard via free agency.
Marchibroda said the Ravens, who remain interested in trading for Carolina Panthers cornerback Tyrone Poole, do not plan to give up a defensive lineman to get him.
"We can't hurt ourselves in an area where we feel good about ourselves," Marchibroda said.
To acquire Poole, the Ravens most likely will have to part with another 1998 draft pick. One possibility has the Ravens swapping second-round choices with the Panthers and also giving up their fourth-round pick. The Ravens own the first pick of that round, courtesy of last month's Jim Harbaugh trade with Indianapolis.
Marchibroda said third-year cornerback Donny Brady will be switched to safety. Brady lost his starting cornerback job four games into 1997, and responded by leading the Ravens in special teams tackles. The Ravens considered moving Brady to safety last spring.
Pub Date: 3/14/98