Offensive line looks to be shaping up well

On the Ravens

Ravens

June 10, 2006|By MIKE PRESTON

During the offseason, the Ravens re-signed free-agent running back Jamal Lewis and added free-agent running back Mike Anderson, defensive end Trevor Pryce and quarterback Steve McNair, but the 2006 season will come down to how well the offensive line blocks.

Wait a minute. Wasn't that the key last year?

Yes, and the Ravens finished 6-10 largely because the offensive line played so poorly. Unfortunately, the Ravens brought back the same group. Fortunately, the group seems to have gotten the message that it needed to improve.

It looks different. Right tackle Tony Pashos, guards Brian Rimpf and Jason Brown have subtracted baby fat and added bulk. Veterans like guard Edwin Mulitalo, center Mike Flynn and left tackle Jonathan Ogden have participated in year-round training sessions. All three look good.

Is that enough? Maybe. Maybe not. No one beats Father Time, but you can slow the process.

It will be interesting to see if Flynn and Mulitalo can regain their forms of yesteryear. Ogden has lost a little over the years, but he's still one of the best in the league. All three will be 32 when the season starts.

If they can't protect the often-injured McNair and keep him reasonably healthy, then the Ravens wasted an $11 million signing bonus to bring the Pro Bowl quarterback to Baltimore.

"You get a little older, you have to maintain yourself a little more," Ogden said. "I hired a personal trainer to work me out three or four times a week. We worked on agility drills, and he gave me some kind of direction toward offseason workouts.

"I thought I had a pretty decent season last year, but I had some tight hamstrings," said Ogden, about to enter his 11th season. "Edwin has been here working hard. All the old guys are trying to come back, trying to get a few more years in. Mike, Ed and me, we've been to a Super Bowl and won it. Years like last season wear on us a lot. When I was 4-12 as a rookie, it mattered, but it didn't hurt as much as last year. Once you've been to the top, then you go back to the bottom, mentally it drains you. We've got to come out and show something this year."

Remember the (former) Titans, because they all might be gone after two seasons.

Ravens president Dick Cass surprised some members of his front office when he recently implied that the team's window of opportunity will close after the 2007 season.

The Ravens, because of salary cap concerns, most likely will have to purge high-priced veterans the way they did after the 2001 season.

It already has been discussed, and, according to team sources, some names on the possible hit list are middle linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerbacks Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, receiver Derrick Mason and McNair.

Because of Cass' statements, the Ravens think it might be difficult to add a big-name free agent or two next season because those players know the Ravens will go into a rebuilding mode.

Oops.

The near-20-minute rambling session by Ray Lewis on Wednesday was the closest thing fans will get to an apology from Lewis for comments criticizing the front office and teammates.

All is forgiven, but some things need to be cleared up. Lewis disputed published reports that he had demanded a trade, yet those words came from the mouth of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Lewis also criticized the media for writing about him without talking to him first.

Hmmm.

The Sun made about six requests for interviews with Lewis from the end of the season until now by phone, via e-mail and through a team spokesman. No. 52 declined all of them.

But the best moment of his news conference came when Lewis said he "prayed for those who wrote bad things about him."

Those words didn't go unnoticed by former Channel 2 sportscaster Keith Mills, who was in attendance. Mills was arrested in January on charges of first-degree burglary and stealing prescription painkillers from his next-door neighbor's home, and he was sentenced last month to nine months of house arrest.

"Where was he [Lewis] about six months ago?" said Mills, drawing laughter. "That's when I really needed some prayer. He's a little too late now."

Running back Lewis seemed content and happy at minicamp. He ran and practiced hard. With McNair, he'll see fewer seven- and eight-man fronts around the line of scrimmage.

But Lewis looked heavy.

"I actually leaned up a little bit more, but this isn't the time when I'm trying to come in at 230 or 235 pounds," Lewis said. "That will be July 29 [the day before training camp opens]. I don't disclose my weight. Whatever I look like I weigh, that's what I weigh."

OK, 250 it is.

Several of the rookies have looked impressive during the various camps, including cornerback Ronnie Prude (free agent, LSU), receiver Demetrius Williams (fourth, Oregon) and guard-center Chris Chester (second, Oklahoma).

Chester has really quick feet and Prude breaks on the ball well. Williams showed great hands at the rookie minicamp.

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