Brown to be center of attention

June 05, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Being the most experienced offensive lineman, Jason Brown knew he would have to become a leader.

He just didn't know his new role would mean a new position.

The Ravens confirmed yesterday that Brown is the new starting center and the focal point of a revamped offensive line.

"We felt like it was a natural to move him back because the center is the leader of your offensive line," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said after passing camp yesterday. "Right now, he's the leader."

Brown's shift from left guard to center is one of many changes to the offensive line.

Ben Grubbs, the team's first-round pick in 2007, is flipping from right guard to left guard. Marshal Yanda is moving from right tackle to right guard.

At the tackle positions, Adam Terry has been penciled in on the right side and Jared Gaither on the left side (unless Jonathan Ogden decides not to retire).

Brown said the combination of the changes on the line and the new coaching staff has "put a torch up our rear ends."

The Ravens began offseason workouts seven weeks ago thinking Chris Chester would replace Mike Flynn, who had started the past seven seasons at center.

But the coaching staff told Brown last week that he would be shifting to center full time. Brown, a fourth-round pick in 2005, had started at center for three seasons at North Carolina.

"The transition has been a lot more smooth than I expected," Brown said. "Maybe it's muscle memory because it's coming back very quickly."

Brown started making a name for himself last season at left guard, where at times he physically dominated defenders.

Now, he has to take a more cerebral approach playing center. Within seconds of lining up, he has to dissect the movement of the defensive linemen and linebackers as well as the coverage of the secondary before shouting out the blocking calls.

"If the quarterback is the general, I would be the colonel," Brown said.

Another reason for moving Brown is his self-described "squatty" stature.

Flynn was often criticized for being pushed around by strong nose tackles. That might not be the case with Brown, who is 6 feet 3 and 320 pounds.

"He is a tough guy to move," said Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan, a seven-year veteran.

Brown felt overmatched two years ago. He was thrown into the starting left guard spot when Edwin Mulitalo went down with a season-ending injury in October 2006.

At that time, Brown was the most inexperienced lineman. Now, even at 25, he has the most starts (29) of the group.

"I wasn't expecting this time to come for at least another couple of years," Brown said. "Being a four-year vet, guys are looking to me for answers and direction."

Before this season, Brown was the one whom others looked toward for laughs. He last year hired a little person from New York to impersonate short-in-stature assistant Greg Roman.

But these days, Brown is looking to be more of a leader than a comedian.

"We can joke after the playoffs," he said. "Right now, it's all business."

Notes -- Missing last week's minicamp really didn't inhibit the progress of rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, coach John Harbaugh said. "He had five practices before. This is the start point for him," Harbaugh said. Flacco was not allowed to practice because of an NFL-NCAA rule. ... Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (Achilles') and linebacker Dan Cody (foot) returned to practice. Terry (ankle surgery), tight end Daniel Wilcox (toe surgery) and cornerback David Pittman (foot) were limited.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Line shift

A look at the Ravens' revamped offensive line:

Pos. ...................... Last year ................ This year

RT ................... Marshal Yanda ......... Adam Terry

RG ................... Ben Grubbs ............. Marshal Yanda

C ..................... Mike Flynn ................ Jason Brown

LG ............... Jason Brown .............. Ben Grubbs

LT ............. Jonathan Ogden ........... Jared Gaither

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