Michael Oher is off to a strong start

September 26, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Michael Oher strolled into the Ravens' locker room, looked at the sheet of paper taped to one wall and let loose a string of epithets that would make an entire convent faint.

The draw for the next cornhole tournament had just been posted. And the big left tackle didn't like what he saw.

"Morgan and I won the last one," punter Sam Koch explained to a visitor, referring to long-snapper Morgan Cox. "We beat him and (Joe) Flacco. Just crushed them."

The visitor wanted to know the score.

Koch called down to Oher: "Big Mike, what was the score?"

"Twenty-one to 10," Oher growled.

Koch smiled.

"In that case," he said, "figure it was 21-7. They got crushed."

For Oher, it was about the only thing that's gone wrong this young season.

Going into tonight's game against the Cleveland Browns, he's been an absolute rock protecting Flacco's blind-side. According to the web site Pro Football Focus, he's given up just one sack, three hits and one quarterback hurry over three games.

Maybe this is the best stat of all: he hasn't been called for a single penalty, either. This after being flagged 10 times last year, 11 in 2010 and nine his rookie season of 2009.

For Ravens fans who've had their fill of no. 74 being rung up for all those false starts and holding penalties in the past, it's almost like seeing a different player.

"Knock on wood," Oher said of having no penalties so far. "Just continue to get better every day. That's what I try to do."

It's hard to get Oher to talk about himself — or anything else, for that matter. The man brings new meaning to the word taciturn — at least with the media. He makes Joe Flacco look chatty.

Ever see Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven?" Where he scrunches up his face and his eyes turn into slits right before the climactic gunfight in the saloon?

That's the kind of look you get from Oher if you approach with a notebook or tape recorder. But the rest of the Ravens and coaches can't stop raving about him.

"Great," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said of Oher's play so far. "He's a franchise left tackle, or whatever all those terms are, a guy you can count on in the running game, pass protection. He matches up well with everybody in this league. Is he perfect? No. There's not one in this league.

"There may have been one here before," Cameron continued, speaking of the great Jonathan Ogden. "We may have seen the best of all time with Jonathan. (But) we've got a great left tackle and one of the finest athletes I have ever seen as an offensive lineman. And one of — if not the — hardest workers I've ever been around (in Oher.)"

What it all means is that the big experiment to install Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and move Oher to the right side has been shelved indefinitely. The man whose life story famously became "The Blind Side" is back at, well, the blind side.

McKinnie almost ate himself out of the league, and out of the Ravens' plans, too. But Oher, the ultimate team guy, never complained when the Ravens whipsawed him back and forth this summer between the tackle spots, further endearing him to his coaches and teammates.

"It's a very difficult thing to do," Oher said of moving between positions. "It might look easy from the outside looking in, but going from the right side to the left side is definitely not easy.

"You work extremely hard every single day to get your techniques down and try to do everything right. That's the only thing that can help you, working hard."

All the work sure paid off Sunday night when he dominated the Patriots' highly-touted rookie pass rusher, Chandler Jones.

Jones, the brother of Ravens' defensive end Arthur Jones and New England's top pick in last April's draft, finished with two assisted tackles, no hits on Joe Flacco and no sacks.

"Early on, Chandler got him one time, and Mike did a great job of adjusting and adapting," John Harbaugh said. "Pretty much after that, he didn't give up any kind of pressure at all.

"I must say, he is a great player," the Ravens coach continued. ". . . He's going to be a great player for a long time in this league. Nobody works harder, nobody studies more than Mike. He just comes to work every single day."

When Harbaugh's words were repeated to him, a strange look came over Oher. His lips began to twitch. It almost looked like a smile was forming.

But a moment later he was studying the cornhole tourney draw sheet again, muttering oaths, his game-face back on.

Just the way the Ravens like him.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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