Ravens’ Gaither has recipe for success

Street Talk Ravens’ Gaither has recipe for success

Posted in Street Talk
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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 improved 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.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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