Chester a building block for Ravens

Club expects rookie to make impact on offensive line

June 16, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Chester is a building block There are two schools of thought when it comes to Chris Chester, the Ravens' promising student on the offensive line.

His college coach says a team needs to groom Chester for a couple of years because of his inexperience at the position.

But some Ravens officials say their second-round pick will make an impact this season because of his unique agility.

"He's going to look so good out there athletically that, at some point, we're going to have to find a way to get him on the field," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting. "If we can coach him up - I think we can - this guy's potential long term is as good as anybody's in the draft."

Chester was the only major addition to the Ravens' offensive line, which was widely considered the weakest area on the team last season.

Team officials can see him competing for all three starting jobs on the interior line, pressing the likes of center Mike Flynn, left guard Edwin Mulitalo and right guard Keydrick Vincent. Chester mainly worked at right guard with the second group during spring camps, which wrapped up yesterday.

Kevin Wilson, the University of Oklahoma offensive coordinator, said the best scenario for Chester is to sit for a couple of years because he is far from a finished product. A converted tight end, Chester started just one season on the offensive line.

"He isn't a guy who is going to walk in and be a Day One starter," Wilson said. "One or two years from now, he might be a tremendous player. He's still a guy who is athletically good enough but is still learning how to become a player who can match his talent."

It's hard not to notice Chester's agility in minicamps.

His quick feet stand out from the rest of the linemen. His initial burst is impressive but not surprising because he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.78 seconds (most guards average 5.3 seconds).

Chester has yet to disappoint since being the 56th overall selection in the draft, the highest an offensive lineman has been taken by the Ravens since Jonathan Ogden (fourth overall) in 1996.

When asked if he thought he could start immediately, Chester said he is "physically and emotionally" ready.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself because I haven't played a game," he said. "Within time, I feel like I can make an impact."

Chester's path to the NFL has included some curves.

He didn't start playing football until he was in high school. He spent his first three seasons at Oklahoma at tight end before being lured to the offensive line.

In persuading Chester to make the switch, the coaches told him tight ends occasionally will get the ball in their hands but centers touch it on every play.

"Not that he was a bad guy or rebellious, but you could tell he wanted to be a tight end in his heart," Wilson said. "Now, I think he realizes it is good for him."

Even with Chester's limited experience at offensive line, the Ravens don't consider him a gamble.

They admit there will be an adjustment period for Chester to absorb a new system. But they don't see him struggling in offensive line drills.

"It doesn't show up that this is an unaware tight end who is now playing offensive line," said Chris Foerster, the Ravens' offensive line coach.

Foerster, though, won't get into the debate about whether Chester can play immediately or needs to sit for a couple of years.

"I have no preconceived thoughts whether he can impact us this year or in two years," he said. "It's totally up to Chris and his development as a player."

Notes -- In one of the last plays of spring camps, receiver Derrick Mason was injured while making a diving catch in the end zone. He limped off the field before practice ended and seemed to be favoring his ankle. Team officials did not express concern for their leading receiver. "How many times do I tell them about not going to the ground?" coach Brian Billick said. "He'll be all right." ... This marked the final workout before the Ravens reconvene for training camp July 27, an earlier-than-expected reporting date. The Ravens will have light workouts on July 28 and 29 and then suit up for the first contact practice July 31. ... Ogden, running back Jamal Lewis, safety Ed Reed, defensive end Trevor Pryce, fullback Ovie Mughelli and linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs were no-shows at the voluntary minicamp. ... Cornerbacks Samari Rolle (elbow) and Chris McAlister (toe), linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring), center Mike Flynn (knee) and receivers Clarence Moore (hernia) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) did not practice. ... As part of the NFL's International Development Program, offensive lineman Samuel Gutekunst of Germany has been assigned to the Ravens' practice squad this season. He started one game for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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