Jared Gaither confirmed Sunday that he would report to the Ravens' offseason workout program today, saying this should remove any doubts about his commitment to the team.
Gaither, the starting left tackle the past two seasons, indicated that his preference is to strike a long-term deal with the Ravens.
"It would be my dream to stay with the Ravens and stay with the team, winning multiple championships," Gaither said. "I'd be more than happy to remain here."
Gaither's absence for the first week of the voluntary conditioning program became widely known last week when Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed disappointment that the former University of Maryland player didn't show up.
Harbaugh said Gaither wouldn't gain any "leverage" for a long-term contract by skipping the workouts.
"I really believe Jared is going to be a premier offensive tackle in this league," Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
"The thing we need him to do is to get up there and start working on it. I talked to [Gaither's agent] Drew Rosenhaus and he tells me he's getting Jared in shape. The last time I checked, Drew Rosenhaus doesn't coach the offensive line in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "Jared needs to be in our weight room with our players with our offensive line, becoming the player he can become."
A day after Harbaugh made these comments last week, Gaither announced that he would be reporting to the weightlifting program.
Gaither, 24, said he wasn't there for the first week because he was rehabilitating a right ankle injury that slowed him late last season.
"I didn't want to abruptly stop it," said Gaither, who didn't need offseason surgery. "I'm done, and I'm going to get back with the team. I'm still rehabbing the strength more. The injuries I had last year just stripped me in those areas. That's really what I was doing."
There has been speculation this offseason about the Ravens' commitment to Gaither, who is a restricted free agent.
No team official has said the Ravens would trade Gaither for a high pick, but the team seemingly announced that it would listen to offers by giving Gaither a first-round tender as a restricted free agent instead of the high one (which would require teams to give up picks in the first and third rounds).
The Ravens have options at offensive tackle because first-round pick Michael Oher looked solid at left tackle when he replaced an injured Gaither for five games in 2009.
Harbaugh said he doesn't know whether teams have contacted the Ravens about Gaither.
"We don't want to lose Jared Gaither," Harbaugh said. "We need Jared Gaither as a Raven. I really like Jared. I think he's going to be a great player. I just want to work with him. We want to get him in and work with him. I know he wants to work. I know he's working hard right now. The other stuff will take care of itself."
Gaither has consistently had to deal with these types of questions. After he was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round of the 2007 supplemental draft, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen expressed his concern over Gaither's work ethic - which led to his losing his starting job with the Terrapins.
"Sometimes he wouldn't work," Friedgen said in 2007. "I think I have to have some credibility there with my players. ... There were some days he didn't feel like practicing."
Gaither said he hopes his return today should quell any doubts with the Ravens.
"I believe my coach and the rest of the staff understand I'm committed," he said. "And I'll be happy to be back."
Gaither has been put in an unenviable role of replacing Jonathan Ogden, the 11-time Pro Bowl left tackle who retired in 2007.
He is considered a developing player who has valuable experience (26 starts the past two seasons) and unique ability (a 6-foot-9, 340-pound lineman with skills).
Asked whether he was surprised that Harbaugh called him out last week, Gaither said: "I'm not sure if 'surprised' is the best word for it. It was never a problem. He has said that to all of his guys. He wants all of us there. I'm not surprised. I had intentions on being there anyway. There was never any conflict."