Changing of the guard

The natural progression of the Oakland Raiders offensive line demanded that Barry Sims move inside. It wasn't that he was ineffective, but Robert Gallery had to take over at some point to ensure a seamless transition into the future. Sims struggled with wrapping his hands around the move at first but understood the implications enough to do what was best for the team.

When Barry Sims first became a starter in 1999, starting six games at tackle and four at guard, he performed well enough to fuel speculation he could eventually be the successor to perennial Pro Bowl guard Steve Wisniewski.

Instead, the undrafted free agent settled in at left tackle for a six-year run in which he held off three players drafted to start at his position.

Mo Collins, a No. 1 pick in 1998, couldn't beat Sims and was moved to guard. Matt Stinchcomb, a No. 1 pick in 1999, couldn't do it and bounced from tackle to guard to center before leaving as a free agent.

Finally, the Raiders took Robert Gallery with the No. 2 pick overall in the 2004 draft. Even Gallery couldn't dislodge Sims, as he started his first two seasons at right tackle.

That ended in March, when coach Art Shell quietly summoned both men to his office and broke the news -- Gallery would be the left tackle, Sims the left guard.

It was a common-sense move designed to re-ignite Gallery's ascension after a disappointing 2005 season, one in which Sims also struggled with speed rushers coming from the outside. Shell expected some resistance on the part of Sims and was not disappointed.

"A guy gets settled into a position, it's uncomfortable for him to move," Shell said. "Barry, to his credit, said, `Look, coach. I think I'm a left tackle. I can play the position. But if you for the team want to move me to guard, I'll do that.'

"So that's a credit to him. If he didn't push back I would be disappointed. He did push back a little bit but he understands we're doing what we think is best for our football team. We're going to get the best five guys out there that can play."

Sims, whose salary cap value of $7.2 million is exceeded only by Randy Moss, and whose acceleration and bonus figures would strain the Raiders under the cap should he be cut, saw the position switch coming.

"I wasn't completely surprised," Sims said. "I figured they'd like to see Robert, the No. 2 pick overall, where he was drafted to play. I was happy that I was able to stay over there for two more years. We'll see how things go."

Sims said he has had to re-learn some fundamentals of line play.

"Just learning how to pull more, it's just the opposite of what I've been playing," Sims said. "On certain blocks, I'm the one setting the guy up versus coming in there and being the second guy to come in on the guy. Just used to getting used to the parameters of being inside. Things happen a lot quicker."

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