Though his daily job responsibilities include sumo-wrestling 300-pound defensive linemen and banging facemasks with blitzing linebackers,
Asked to evaluate how the
Fifty seconds later, the veteran center realized he wasn't exactly attacking the question head-on.
"I'm showing some agility here, doing a little side step," said Birk, now in his 15th
After a solid 2011 regular season in which running back
Despite those struggles, the Ravens were still a dropped pass short of advancing to the
A new season looms, and heading into Monday's season opener against the
As the Ravens look to take that giant leap forward offensively, their linemen aren't looking back.
"You can't live in the rear-view mirror in this business,"
During the offseason, even after Pro Bowl left guard
The Ravens regularly swapped seven different linemen in and out of the first-team unit during training camp and the preseason as they tried to determine which five will start against the Bengals.
Harbaugh hasn't revealed his plans yet, but according to two league sources with knowledge of the situation,
If there is any concern about the eventual starting five not getting an opportunity to gel, players are not airing it publicly. Birk, 36, actually sees the shuffling as a positive because "you never know what's going to happen during the course of a season," as one injury can sack an offensive line.
"We're happy to have some depth," Harbaugh said. "It's good to have some depth, whether it's young depth and veteran starters or young starters and veteran depth. That's all a positive for us."
Whether he starts, as expected, or comes off the bench, Osemele says he will have a "substantial role." One of the team's two second-round picks, he started all four preseason games, transitioning near-seamlessly from right tackle to left guard and back. The powerful Iowa State product had a strong preseason, showing off athleticism and versatility, along with his sheer size and strength.
He looks like he could be another big building block on the line, and the Ravens also feel they have an heir to Birk in Gradkowski, who was drafted two rounds after Osemele. Oher is signed through 2013 and Yanda is through 2015. The Ravens are also hopeful that two of their other versatile, young offensive linemen,
But even with Osemele in the starting lineup instead of McKinnie, the Ravens, with an average age of 29.4, could still have one of the NFL's oldest starting offensive lines. But then again, that was also the case with the
"I don't care what anyone says about that crap," Yanda said. "Age isn't a factor to me. As long as the guy blocks and the guy does his job at a high level, it doesn't matter. They'll be in there."
And if the transitioning offensive line can for another season continue to pave running lanes for Rice, a two-time Pro Bowl running back, and give Flacco time to complete passes to receivers like
"We've got talent," said Birk, switching from being evasive to optimistic. "It's great knowing going into a game knowing that if we do our jobs up front, they're going to do what they do: make plays."