Caldwell: Center battle still close

Caldwell: Center battle still close
August 26, 2013, 4:30 pm
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Baltimore Ravens guard Gino Gradkowski (66) during warmups prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. H

(Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley have been locked in a training camp duel for the Ravens starting center job all preseason, and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell still is not prepared to declare a winner in the race.

“Nothing has been determined at this point,” Caldwell said after practice on Monday, three days before the preseason finale at St. Louis.

Gradkowski, the second-year player out of Delaware, started the first and third preseason games, and Shipley, acquired via trade from the Colts this past offseason, started the second preseason game, against Atlanta. How playing time is delegated Thursday night could be telling; starters traditionally play little if at all in the final preseason game.

Shipley had a rough start, drawing a hands-to-the-face 15-yard penalty on his first snap , and later drawing a false start penalty. He also struggled with interior pressure against the Falcons.

Gradkowksi has the advantage of working with the Ravens all of last season as Matt Birk’s primary backup. Shipley, a seventh-round draft pick of the Steelers out of Penn State in 2009, has bounced around on the practice squads of the Steelers, Eagles and Colts. But he also boasts starting NFL experience, having started five games with the Colts last season.

Gradkowski played the majority of the snaps against Carolina, and worked exclusively with the first unit, but Caldwell was not ready to say the job was his.

“It’s still a very competitive situation,” Caldwell said, noting that both “played tough, played hard” against the Panthers this past week.

“There’s still a battle going on,” he added. “Both guys are quality guys that do what we ask them to do, can handle what we do, in all phases, from an intellectual standpoint, making calls, making certain that we’re in the right looks from a protection standpoint, and they also can hold their own in terms of one-on-one blocking …

“It’s a great problem to have. It’s a real tight race.”

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