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When Bryan Mattison lined up at center to start against the Philadelphia Eagles, he may not have known it, but his NFL career was on the line.
Mattison’s out of practice squad eligibility. He’s got to make the 53-man roster this year or he gets cut.
What’s making that even more difficult is that he’s shifting to a new position.
The former Iowa defensive lineman began his NFL career on that side of the ball before switching to offensive guard/tackle. Now he’s been moved to center to fill in for injured starter Matt Birk.
If Mattison didn’t show he could handle it, the Ravens may have looked elsewhere for immediate help.
Boren Aiming For Roster Spot
Playing next to Bryan Mattison on the first-team offense in Wednesday’s practice was another surprise youngster looking to carve out a roster spot – right guard Justin Boren.
Boren, who is just the third player in history to ever play for Michigan and rival Ohio State, knew he wanted to come to Baltimore after he wasn’t drafted. He played for Ravens Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller for two years at Michigan and likes the team’s style of play.
“We try to get a helmet on a helmet and take people down every play,” said Boren, who got into it with Terrence Cody on Wednesday, sending both players’ helmets to the turf. “That’s what they strive for and what I strive for every practice and game.”
Boren has also been joined by undrafted rookie center Ryan Bartholomew in getting a large amount of snaps.
“One comes from Syracuse, one comes from Ohio State – they’re both good football programs,” Offensive Coordinator Cameron said. “They both like football, and usually the longer and harder it gets, guys like that just tend to be there and surface. You never know.”
“That was one of those games where the guys really have got everything on the line – the first time he had ever played the position – and if he didn’t do well, it might have been the last time he ever played it realistically,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“He actually did a very nice job.”
Mattison’s still learning despite being in his final opportunity. He’s part of a young offensive line that is making a pitch to be kept on instead of the Ravens adding pieces via free agency.
Heading into Friday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Mattison is once again slated to be the starter.
“I feel like it’s a heck of an opportunity,” Mattison, 27, said. “I do like the position. I enjoy center. I’ve got a whole lot to learn, but with the coaches we have and proven veterans we have, it makes it a lot easier on me.”
Mattison said he’s often helped on the line by the other starters, from guard Ben Grubbs to his immediate left to Michael Oher out at left tackle. Where
Mattison is really catching up is on making calls at the line, which is one of the primary duties of the anchor.
For that (and more) Mattison bends the ear of Birk, a 14-year veteran who, like Mattison, came into the league a longshot to make the roster.
“I’m sure he thinks I’m like another 4-year-old kid asking him non-stop questions,” Mattison said. “But he seems like he really cares about giving me good answers.”
One person Mattison doesn’t have around anymore is his father. Greg Mattison, the Ravens’ former defensive coordinator, left to accept the same job at the University of Michigan after last season.
The father and son still talk about every day, and the coach still asks about how the defense is doing. Bryan says the two purposefully tried not to do a whole lot together even while they were both in Owings Mills because they had two different jobs to do.
Mattison’s doing everything he can to improve every day while ignoring the numbers game or the idea that at any time Baltimore could sign his replacement.
“I told my wife and my family, I’m just going to go play football,” Mattison said. “That’s what I do, it’s what I’ve done for a lot of my life. I’m not going to worry about numbers, worry about the ifs. I’m just going to play day-to-day, give it my best and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”