If Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither can't play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals - and right now, it looks like a long shot, considering that he wore a neck brace during walk-throughs and didn't practice Wednesday - it will probably affect the continuity of the offensive line in one of two ways.
Either the line will struggle with matchups, forcing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to scale back what he wants to do, or there will be virtually no change in the game plan and the Ravens' high-powered offense will keep rolling.
You can put center Matt Birk down as one of those who thinks continuity is a little overrated.
"I've played in games where I didn't even know who the guy beside me was," said Birk, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. "I was talking to him all game and calling him by the wrong name. That's how it is out there sometimes."
Still, Gaither's injury will likely force the Ravens to do some juggling up front against a Bengals defense that has the NFL sacks leader in Antwan Odom with eight. Gaither, who was carted off the field in the Ravens' loss to the New England Patriots with a neck injury, was walking around the locker room Wednesday.
"We're going to take it day by day," Gaither said. "I'm definitely hopeful I'll heal fast, and God willing, I'll be ready to go out there Sunday. It was pretty scary. I don't think anybody wants to be in that position. It was tough, but we'll see."
"He's a little stiff, but he's gone through all the activity we've had so far," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He has a chance to play on Sunday."
Assuming Gaither can't go, or is held out by the team's medical staff as a precaution, the Ravens will go back to the patchwork lineup they used after Gaither went down against the Patriots, with rookie Michael Oher moving from right tackle to left tackle, and Marshal Yanda - normally a guard - filling in at right tackle.
The shifting produced mixed results. Oher played well, but Yanda appeared to miss a crucial block with 5:09 left in the game when the Ravens decided to go for it on fourth-and-1.
"It's still different at the end of the day," said Oher, who played left tackle in college. "You do basically the same things, although you're protecting the quarterback's blind side. But it's different getting used to it again. It's different on the body and the mind. Just as you get used to one position, you're going back to another position."
Yanda may face the biggest challenge Sunday. When the Bengals played the Packers two weeks ago, Green Bay had to shuffle its offensive line because of injuries and had a converted guard, Daryn Colledge, playing tackle. The Packers were so concerned with stopping Odom, who had three sacks anyway, that the Bengals caused havoc on the right side of their line as well.
"I'm a team guy, and wherever they need me to play, I'll play," said Yanda, who played tackle at Iowa. "I felt great [against New England]. It was good to get back out there. I just wish I could have some plays back. The thing is, those are going to nag at you for a while, but you just have to put it behind you."
Yanda, who missed a major portion of last season because of a serious knee injury, said he didn't even think about it Sunday.
"I was just focused on doing my job," Yanda said. "It was a little sore afterward, but nothing specific. Just general soreness in my body. My knee felt good in the morning, which is great. It felt just like my left knee, so that was a good thing."
Could Gaither's injury lead to the Ravens' relying on the run more than they did through the first four weeks of the season? Thus far, the team has thrown 154 passes and run the ball 118 times.
"There are a lot of different ways to win football games," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "You're not stuck throwing the ball, and you're not just stuck running the ball. It's what the game dictates. I'm sure there will be a game where we have to run the ball 45 times in order to win."
What the Ravens do have going for them is that every member of their offensive line has played more than one position at some point in his career.
"You have to be able to play more than one position in this league," Birk said. "When I was young, I could play all five. You have to be able to do that because you can only dress so many guys on Sunday. You can't dress a backup for every position. Those guys have to be ready to play.
"In a perfect world, everyone would always feel healthy and nobody would leave games, but that's not the way it is. The reality is, guys get hurt. Things change like that, and [Oher and Yanda] came in and fought their [hindquarters] off. That's what you've got to do."
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