Gaither has recipe for success

WESTMINSTER -- Jared Gaither has long enough arms to claim victory in a blocking confrontation as soon as it begins, simply locking out imposing defensive linemen with his superior reach. At 6-foot-9, the towering former blue-chip basketball recruit is tall enough to post up most NBA power forwards.

And the Baltimore Ravens' starting left offensive tackle has uncanny quickness and movement, remnants from his prep basketball days.

"I'm blessed to be athletic," Gaither said. "I mean, it really hasn't changed. I've been mobile all my life."

Weighing in at 340 pounds, the aspiring gourmet chef has the requisite bulk and strength to muscle hefty defensive ends at the line of scrimmage.

After only beginning to play football as a senior in high school at Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt six years ago, the 23-year-old has progressed to the point where he's expected to excel on a weekly basis.

"He's an outstanding left tackle, and he's young and still has a lot to learn," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "So, we expect a great year out of Jared and we expect him to be dominant."

One year removed from capably replacing future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden after his retirement, the Ravens are banking on Gaither ascending into one of the top offensive tackles in the league.

Gaither is the rare offensive linemen who's considered to have no ceiling on his potential. The former University of Maryland player has answered skeptics' questions about his work ethic and toughness by applying himself more diligently during the offseason training program. His maturity and focus have imroved markedly.

Perhaps the best thing about Gaither, who was chosen in the fifth round of the NFL supplemental draft in 2007, is that he still has plenty of room for growth under the tutelage of veteran offensive line coach John Matsko and assistant line coach Andy Moeller.

"Obviously, we are hoping that he becomes an elite left tackle in this league for many years to come," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But that's up to him and coach Matsko and coach Moeller, and really all of us. We're working together to try to make that happen."

Gaither proved to be an adept, gritty blocker last season in starting all but one game for the Ravens as the offensive line helped the offense pile up 2,376 rushing yards while allowing the second-fewest sacks in franchise history with just 33 surrendered.

Gaither spent more time in the weight room this offseason in an effort to try to get bigger, stronger and leaner. He redistributed his weight, in his words.

"We work to get better every day," Gaither said. "As long as I work and put the time in and use my talent to the best of my ability, I can only get better and reach my goals. I give it my all. Nothing has changed. I give it 110 percent, and I'll be all right."

Last year, Gaither garnered a lot of respect by literally playing with one arm because of a painful separated shoulder.

Despite the injury, Gaither still managed to hold his own against extremely tough competition in the AFC North.

"Coach Harbaugh told me to go out there and see what you can do, and I went out there and did pretty good," Gaither said. "From then on, it was, 'There ain't no backing down now."

Learning how to play through pain is a major rite of passage for a young player. And Gaither passed that test with honors, much to the approval of his colleagues and coaches.

"That's a big adjustment for young guys," Cameron said. "Once the season starts, everybody is hurt. That's just part of the job and part of what you do. So, he's becoming a pro. And there's no reason he can't wind up being a great one."

Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk has only been around Gaither for a few months after signing with Baltimore this offseason.

During that span, Gaither has made a strong impression on one of the best offensive linemen in the game over the past decade.

"Jared can be great, he can be as great as he wants to be," Birk said. "He has great tools. The thing that will make Jared great is his work ethic. You see him working every day. In the grand scheme of things, he hasn't played a whole lot of football.

"In a lot of ways, he's still raw. As he progresses, it's quicker than most even though football is relatively new to him. But he needs to keep working at it like the rest of us. You've never arrived. Your game is never a finished product."

One lesson Gaither has already mastered is the necessity of proper nutrition and the enjoyment of a well-cooked meal.

Gaither recently took a cooking lesson from the executive chef at the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Pikesville

"That was a great experience," Gaither said. "I loved it. I eat there often, so it was a great experience to learn their techniques."

Gaither's signature dish is steak and potatoes, and he loves watching food shows like Top Chef and Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

"I've always been liking to cook," Gaither said. "It's relaxing with the cooking and all of the aromas and all that good stuff. I'm an offensive lineman. You know I like to eat."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Ravens notebook: Rolle about to begin practicing Suggs out of walking boot

By Aaron Wilson

WESTMINSTER -- The medical outlook for Baltimore Ravens veteran cornerback Samari Rolle is encouraging enough that he may be activated from the physically unable to perform list within the next day or two. Rolle has been dealing with a neck injury that has required him to have an electric device to stimulate healing attached to his neck. "Samari is going to get back out here real soon, at least with the non-contact stuff," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "So, he's really itching to get back and we should see him out here in the next day or two."

With Rolle not expected to take part in contact drills, he'll be wearing a red jersey when he returns.

Earlier in training camp, Rolle said that his injuries, which included a groin injury stemming from last season, weren't too serious.

"I'm getting there," said Rolle, who had neck surgery last season. "It's something that you have to be patient about. I can't wait to be back."

Rolle, who started 10 games last season, re-signed with the Ravens in April. He inked a four-year, $10 million contract nearly three weeks after being cut at his request.

A former Pro Bowl selection, Rolle, 33, is projected to square off with Chris Carr for nickel back duties.

However, Harbaugh isn't limiting Rolle's prospects. He wants Rolle to potentially challenge starters Fabian Washington and Domonique Foxworth, who was signed to a four-year, $27.2 million contract this offseason.

"Is he competing for a starting spot? Sure," Harbaugh said of Rolle. "Actually, absolutely. We put the best guys out there. We don't care how much guys make.

"We put the best players out there. And who's the best player? Whoever is playing the best. That's how it works."

TERRY TO IR, TEAM SIGNS LINEMAN: The Ravens officially placed offensive tackle Adam Terry on injured reserve, ending his season.

Terry is scheduled to undergo microfracture surgery as soon as Tuesday, according to the team and his representatives.

Meanwhile, the Ravens signed undrafted rookie defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.

A former honorable-mention All-Big Ten Conference selection at Ohio State, the 6-foot-5, 297-pounder was previously with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Abdallah recorded 53 career tackles, two sacks and nine tackles for losses.

INJURY UPDATE: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was true to his word. He's already out of the protective walking boot necessitated by his strained left heel.

Washington was sidelined for the first time at camp with tendinitis and a bruise in his knee, but indicated that he could return to practice today.

Backup cornerback Evan Oglesby suffered a concussion and didn't practice.

Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo is no longer wearing a protective boot due to a sprained toe.

"It's real sensitive," Ayanbadejo said. "I don't want to come back too soon. I haven't even put cleats on and tried to run."

Also not practicing: wide receivers Mark Clayton (left hamstring) and Biren Ealy (undisclosed), defensive tackle Lamar Divens (hip flexor) and defensive end Will Johnson (hamstring).

Tight end Davon Drew (right ankle) returned to practice, but didn't finish the workout.

Safety Tom Zbikowski (groin) returned to practice as well as linebacker Antwan Barnes (concussion) and offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (leg).

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh will not be present for Friday's afternoon practice because he'll be attending the memorial service for the late Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, his friend and mentor. Harbaugh will take a helicopter up to Philadelphia after coaching the team during the morning practice. Special-teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg will take Harbaugh's place at practice. Harbaugh will return Friday night... Harbaugh seemed a bit incredulous when he was asked if it was safe for quarterback Joe Flacco to take part in special-teams drills. Flacco didn't engage in any contact. "There is no danger factor," Harbaugh said. "The purpose is we need another guy to run down there and give our guys a look. There's no big message, you know?" ... Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb intercepted two John Beck passes. ... Flacco hit tight end Todd Heap with a perfect spiral for a long touchdown pass. ... The Ravens had a 30-and-over day off for veterans Ray Lewis, Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Ed Reed, Kelly Gregg and Matt Birk. Birk attended the practice anyway. "I think it says that he is really trying to tie that offensive line together," Harbaugh said. "He wants them to be a unit." Added Birk: "I need the mental reps. I need that work. I want to pick up the offense to the point where I feel comfortable." ... With Birk not practicing, right guard Chris Chester took over at center with David Hale playing right guard. ... Tight end L.J. Smith dropped a routine pass all by himself.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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