Ravens lose Flynn to broken collarbone

Center to miss 6-8 weeks

Rabach will replace him

August 24, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens center Mike Flynn fractured his right collarbone yesterday morning and is out for six to eight weeks. Casey Rabach will replace Flynn in the starting lineup.

Flynn, in his seventh season, has missed only one start since becoming a full-time starter in 2000. Ravens officials are hoping Flynn will return for the sixth game of the season against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 24, a week after the team's bye.

The injury is the same as the one that ended Travis Taylor's season midway through his rookie year in 2000. Flynn may have a pin placed in his clavicle, a move the team hopes will expedite the healing process.

"He's a solid guy who has been the heart and soul of the offensive line for the last five years," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "But as football goes, you need to have somebody to step in."

While Rabach was pleased at his ascension into the starting lineup after three years as the top backup on the interior line, the promotion at the expense of Flynn was a little disheartening. Rabach had been in training camp competition with right guard Bennie Anderson, who will now begin his fourth straight season as a starter.

"It's a real hard situation to speak about because you never want to get a position just because of injury," Rabach said. "It's the kind of thing you want to earn. But Coach has got enough confidence in me to step up from where Mike left off. Obviously, losing Mike is a big hurt for us. He's our inspirational leader and been around forever.

"But it's an opportunity for me now to prove to the coaching staff that I'm very capable of doing what Mike has been doing here for years."

In many respects, Rabach has already proved himself. He has started seven games in his career, and the coaches thought enough of his work to give him the chance to knock off Anderson at the start of training camp.

But Rabach hurt his knee and missed the second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which probably severely hurt his chances of starting. All that changed, though, during a full-contact drill about 45 minutes into practice yesterday, when Flynn engaged with a defensive lineman and was bent over in pain by the time the whistle blew.

Minutes later, Flynn walked off the practice field with a look on his face like he had just been on the receiving end of a right cross. The Ravens took X-rays immediately and discovered the fracture.

Rabach, who was participating in his first practice since he hurt his knee, jumped in immediately and had just one discernible error when he rolled a shotgun snap back to quarterback Kyle Boller.

Although Rabach wore a knee brace and was heavily taped, he said he is 100 percent and will play against the Detroit Lions on Saturday.

"There is no one else that I'd rather want," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Casey has been preparing for this day for a long time. Obviously, he's been playing the sixth man, but that's not his personality. His personality is definitely to be up in the front leading an offensive line, and he's going to get that opportunity."

Playing at center is more of a natural fit for Rabach, who at 6 feet 4 and 301 pounds is a little undersized for a guard. Mulitalo and Anderson each outweigh Rabach by 45 pounds.

"He can do it like that," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said, snapping his fingers. "I'm not so sure he's more comfortable playing center than any position."

The Ravens also got back Orlando Brown, who has missed the first two preseason games to deal with a family situation, for the afternoon session yesterday. Brown is expected to be ready for the opener, which will give the Ravens four of the five offensive linemen that began last season.

Coaches and players seemed comfortable with the only change. For Rabach, an elusive goal the past two seasons has finally been achieved.

"It's something that you always work for," Rabach said. "You never come into the season wanting to be a backup. This is good for me, but it's bad that it had to come this way."

Next for Ravens

Preseason matchup: Detroit Lions (1-1) vs. Ravens (1-1)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 4 1/2

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