The battle at center for Ravens

The battle at center for Ravens
May 20, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Baltimore Ravens guard Gino Gradkowski (66) during warmups prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

(Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

As the Ravens get together for OTAs (organized team activities) on Tuesday, there's a number of issues/questions that those who follow the club will be watching. Some will be very big -- like who's going to replace Ray Lewis/Ed Reed, etc. -- but others aren't as noticeable but still need to be answered.

One of them comes at center, where there could be a battle for playing time and/or the starting spot. Gino Gradkowski appeared to have the inside shot at the job vacated by the retirement of veteran Matt Birk. But the Ravens then drafted Ryan Jensen and traded for A.Q. Shipley.

What does that mean?

At the very least, it means the Ravens again are pushing the competition angle. Coach John Harbaugh loves to have players compete for their jobs. Many coaches believe that competition brings out the best in players, and Harbaugh certainly seems to feel that way.

The center position is one that usually doesn't get much notice until something goes wrong. Birk, although later in his career here, was pretty much a rock in that spot. Can a younger player like Gradkowski take over there with just one year of experience? Birk guided him along last year, and Gradkowski's now been through it all once, but is he ready to take over as the starter.

Same questions with Shipley, who's played with the Colts. Jensen's a rookie and likely won't have a great shot at the starting position unless he knocks off everyone's socks in camp. At the very worst, the Ravens will have a lot of depth there, something that can help them considering they might be rolling the dice a bit with a younger player at that position.