Shipley to start at center vs. Falcons

Shipley to start at center vs. Falcons
August 13, 2013, 9:30 pm
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A.Q. Shipley will start at center for the Ravens in their preseason home opener against Atlanta on Thursday night, as the battle between Shipley and Gino Gradkowski continues to be a virtual dead heat roughly halfway through training camp.

Ravens run game coordinator Juan Castillo said after practice on Tuesday that Shipley would start against the Falcons, this after Gradkowski started and played with the first unit in the preseason opener at Tampa Bay last week.

Gradkowski, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, was Matt Birk's primary understudy last season for the Ravens, and with Birk's retirement, Gradkowski was considered the heir apparent for the starting center job.

Always looking to foster competition, though, the Ravens acquired Shipley in May in a trade with the Colts. Shipley, 27, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2009, and bounced around on practice squads of the Steelers, Eagles and Colts before making the Colts active roster last season. He appeared in 14 games for the Colts in 2012, including five starts.

That would seem to give him an experience edge over Gradkowski, whose role last season was primiarly on special teams. Gradkowski played in all 16 games last season, but with Birk starting every game last year, Gradkowski's only extensive action on offense came in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. 

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 309 pounds, Shipley is a couple of inches shorter than Gradkowski and about 10 pounds heavier.

"We're talking to them and say, 'We need to have some separation,' " Castillo said. "Somebody's gotta come to the top. The problem is that they're both playing real well right now. They're both doing a good job. ... In the pass protection, they're both using their hands real well, they're both good leaders. ... They're both tough and ready to fight."

Expect the battle to continue at least another week.

"Probably the third game we'll split em up and then we'll make a decision," Castillo said.