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Late For Work 5/30: Agent: Gaither’s Back ‘Totally Healed’

Plus a critical season for Oher, Rice ranked 56th-best player and T.C. decision looming.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, May 30th, 2011 at 9:35 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Agent: Gaither’s Back ‘Totally Healed’

Agent Drew Rosenhaus announced that his client, Jared Gaither, has made a full recovery from an upper-back injury that caused him to miss the entire 2010 NFL season.

“Jared Gaither’s back is totally healed,” Rosenhaus tweeted. “He’s had a great offseason and will have a bounce back yr. He’s back to full strength & ready to go.”

While his agent’s declaration is encouraging for his client, the offensive tackle would still need to pass a physical and be cleared by a club in order to play.

Rosenhaus is not a doctor, so his opinion on Gaither’s health carries a little less weight than those with a medical degree,” wrote ESPN’s Tim Kavanagh. “In addition, proclaiming any positive news on his client can only help to aid his prospects in the hypothetical free-agent market that will become reality sometime in the future. So, take his comments for what they’re worth with those caveats in mind.”

While free agency will become a reality in the future, Gaither’s free-agent status is still up in the air.

As General Manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this month, Gaither could still be on Baltimore’s roster next season. If the 2010 collective bargaining agreement parameters apply to 2011 free agency, the four-year veteran would remain a restricted free agent, making it more likely that he suits up in black and purple next year.

On the other hand, if he is an unrestricted free agent, Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson believes “the Ravens are unlikely to give Gaither a new contract with a major financial commitment.”

The hulking 6-foot-9, 340-pounder told Wilson that he definitely still wants to play left tackle. Michael Oher took over that position last year, but Gaither would want to compete for the chance to get it back.

“Nothing is etched in stone about who will play where,” Newsome said.  “If [Gaither's] healthy, he’d get a chance to come back and start also.”

2011 A Critical Year For Oher

ESPN’s Matt Williamson is of the opinion that Gaither will not return to the Ravens next season. As such, Oher “remains the best option at left tackle.”

After inconsistent play at the left side last year, however, Williamson believes 2011 is shaping up to be a “critical” season for the three-year veteran.

“The Ravens definitely need more consistency from their left tackle,” wrote Williamson. “Although Oher is serviceable in the running game, he was a liability in pass protection. He doesn’t have ideal length for a left tackle and is better going forward than playing in reverse, making him a better fit on the right side.”

The Ravens continued to bring in pieces to bulk up the passing game this offseason by drafting receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss last month. They also signed 6-foot-5, 220-pound James Hardy, who was a 2008 second-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills, but was plagued by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee the last two years.

It will be crucial for Oher to protect his quarterback from the league’s best pass rushers, like the Steelers’ James Harrison, who has given Baltimore fits in the past.

“Baltimore is poised to stretch the field with more deep routes and seven-step drops, and Oher will be under even more pressure to hold up on the edge and sustain protection longer,” Williamson added.

“It should be noted that he only recently turned 25, and improvement could very well be on the horizon.”

Rice Ranked 56th-Best NFL Player Of ’11

Running back Ray Rice is the league’s 56th-best active player according NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2011, a list that is determined by current NFL players.

Maurice Jones-Drew, to whom Rice often draws comparisons, believes what makes Rice unique is his ability to be a weapon in the receiving game.

In 2009, Rice became one of only eight players in NFL history to produce 1,000 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards in one season.

“If you ever watch how the Ravens use Ray Rice, they move him around a ton,” said the Jaguars running back.  “Most linebackers aren’t DBs so they can’t move … it’s funny, they’re terrified of him when he stretches out of the backfield.

“That scares people because they don’t know which route he’s going to run because he can run every route. It’s a good thing to see him putting fear in people’s eyes.”

McDaniel VP: Only Weeks Remain Before Training Camp Decision

The longer the NFL lockout persists, the less likely the Ravens will be able to continue their 15-year streak of holding training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster this summer.

“We’re in a holding pattern until something gets resolved,” Ravens Vice President of Operations Bob Eller told Wilson. “Hopefully, we’ll know something sooner than later. The longer the labor situation remains unsettled, the more difficult it will be to hold training camp in Westminster this year. Right now, they’re continuing to hold the facilities for us at the college.”

Officials emphasized that no decisions have been made yet, but it looks as though, logistically, only weeks remain before they would have to pull the plug.

“How close can you get to camp before it’s logistically not possible to pull it off?” asked Ethan A. Seidel, McDaniel College Vice President of Administration and Finance.  “In my mind, we only have a few weeks left before we’re at that point. I don’t know that the owners and the players are compelled to come to terms yet and negotiations are such a strange thing.”

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will listen to 30-minute oral arguments from both the league and decertified players’ union on June 3. A final ruling isn’t expected until late-June to early-July.

If camp were forced to be shifted to the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills, with some open-to-the-public practices at M&T Bank Stadium, the future in Westminster beyond this summer still looks bright.

“Certainly whatever happens would not preclude us from talking about future years,” Eller told Wilson. “We’re certainly going to be in discussions with [McDaniel officials] about continuing our relationship. It’s been a very good one for both sides.”

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