Mulitalo adjusting to move

Every step Edwin Mulitalo takes can carry a different implication. The isolation of right tackle, an unfamiliar spot for Mulitalo, is a world apart from the confined area of left guard. Instead of the interior space where the Baltimore Ravens' offensive lineman has specialized in mauling defenders with brute strength, Mulitalo faces significant adjustments as the new starting right tackle.

His explosiveness and massive size should come in handy, particularly as a run blocker. Yet, it's his footwork that will ultimately determine how effective Mulitalo will be in fending off the pure speed of pass rushers like Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Gildon and Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse.

 "All those edge guys like Kearse are going to be licking their chops," said Mulitalo, who has trimmed up his blocky physique of 6-foot-4, 354 pounds. "That's why I'm working so hard on my technique and conditioning because my first step has to be quick.

"Everything's different. The body leverage is different, where your body leans is totally different. It's going slow. Hopefully, I'll get things together and it will be more natural."

During the season, Mulitalo might be asked to block some impressive pass rushers beyond Gildon and Kearse. Depending upon how they are lined up from play to play, Mulitalo could have to block sack specialists like the Carolina Panthers' rookie Julius Peppers, the Cleveland Browns' Courtney Brown, Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice, the Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals' Justin Smith.

Another test looms over the next few weeks as Mulitalo tests himself against Ravens pass rushers like Adalius Thomas as well as Michael McCrary and Peter Boulware when they're back to full strength.

Every move Mulitalo makes will be observed closely by opposing defensive coordinators.

 A few things work in Mulitalo's favor in his new territory. He started at left tackle for two years at the University of Arizona in an offense which threw the football a lot and asked him to protect the quarterback's blind side.

Four years ago, the Ravens felt confident enough to select Mulitalo in the fourth round. Now, he has 38 regular-season starts and six playoff starts under his gigantic belt.

Running behind the tandem of All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Mulitalo, the Ravens ranked fifth in the NFL in 2000 with a club-record 2,199 rushing yards on the way to a Super Bowl title. All of that experience gained by Mulitalo came at left guard, though.

"I think Edwin will be fine," center Mike Flynn said. "Players are players no matter where they line up. He'll adjust quick, he'll be good and I think it will be a good move for him.

"At tackle, you need a big guy like Edwin, but he also has quick feet and long arms, which is what you need. He can handle bull rushes and speed rushes. I think he's going to make a difference."

Mulitalo has forged a reputation for being able to handle a transition. As a rookie in 1999, he was elevated to start at left guard when right tackle Harry Swayne broke his foot and Everett Lindsay moved into Swayne's spot.

He played well enough to make one publication's all-rookie team.

"He feels very natural at it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Mulitalo's move. "The communication, his knowledge about the schemes so easily serves him out at tackle. So far, it's going very well."

The drawback of changing Mulitalo's position is it breaks up the continuity he had with Ogden, and it necesitates promoting second-year Casey Rabach, a converted center, at left guard. Bennie Anderson enters his second season as a starter at right guard.

Part of Mulitalo being able to make this change is based on conditioning himself for the fast movements and change of direction that right tackle requires. He plans on dropping more weight to get down to between 345 and 348 pounds.

"I've been running a lot because you have to be a lot quicker when you're going against guys on the edge," Mulitalo said. "I'm working out hard."

Because Baltimore was unable to sign a right tackle in free agency, Mulitalo is being counted on to play there. Marcus Spears reneged on a verbal agreement with the Ravens to return to the Kansas City Chiefs. Roman Oben, a former Cleveland Brown and New York Giant, accepted a minimum veteran contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A lack of salary-cap space hurts the Ravens' chances of pursuing other veterans still on the market like Ben Coleman, who visited the club's training complex this offseason.

 "They're showing confidence in me," Mulitalo said. "I have to step up to the plate and show them that confidence is true. I truly am excited for the challenge.

"It's almost like I'm a rookie again. I'm wide-eyed and looking for advice. This gives a little spark to my career."


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