Flanagan back in the middle

Mike Flanagan just wants to play center. More than that, however, he wants his team to win. He's taken the flip-flop from his natural position to left tackle in place of the injured Chad Clifton in stride.<P>

NOw that Clifton has been removed from the team's injury report for the first time since spraining his medial collateral ligament (MCL) against the New England Patriots, October 13. That means emergency backup tackle Mike Flanagan is available to return to his natural position of center.

Flanagan reclaims his starting role from 16-year veteran Frank Winters, who has been an invaluable component of an offensive line bombarded by injuries.

"(Flanagan) is just more athletic," coach Mike Sherman said. said. "He's quicker. There aren't many -- if any -- centers that can go out and play left tackle against (Miami Pro Bowl defensive end) Jason Taylor in the National Football League."

Winters has played in all eight games this season, starting five. Three of those starts came as a result of a broken thumb suffered by Flanagan during training camp. The last two starts came after a healthy Flanagan was shifted to tackle in place of Clifton.

Sherman emphasized the contribution made by Winters, one of a handful of players left from the 1996 title team.

"You could say one of my best offseason signings was Frank Winters," Mike Sherman said Wednesday. "If we didn't have Frank Winters here and performing to the level he's performed, I don't even know where we'd be right now.

"I'm just so excited with the leadership he's given us and his toughness," Sherman said of Winters. "He has given me a tremendous confidence level."

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