Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither has been quite the topic of conversation since the launch of training camp.
Whether it’s his drastically reduced weight, his unsteady health, his position, status on the depth chart or the trade rumors that surrounded him during the offseason, Gaither is never dull.
Down to 311 pounds after playing at 340 pounds last season, Gaither acknowledged that he may have overdone it with the weight loss and it might have led to his bout with cramps last Friday that sidelined him until he returned for Monday’s practice.
"I had a couple of cramps," Gaither said Tuesday at McDaniel College. "I dropped a couple pounds over the summer. I’m just preparing for a great season. I lost a little bit more than I was anticipating and cramped up a little bit my first time out there. I’m back now, and I’m fine."
Gaither said that his bloodwork was ruled negative.
"Definitely, to make sure all the organs are working right and make sure I’m healthy," he said.
Gaither emphasized that he lost the weight to reduce stress and wear and tear on his toe. He also dealt with foot problems during minicamps.
"I wanted to take more weight off the toe and be able to do more things," Gaither said. "The toe is 100 percent and I’m 100 percent."
However, Gaither worked out on his own and not under the supervision of the Ravens’ strength and conditioning staff.
Gaither reporting so light and resembling a basketball player or a big tight end more than an offensive tackle was an unwelcome surprise for the organization.
It seemed to bother coach John Harbaugh, especially since he wasn’t expecting Gaither to come back so light.
"No, we had not previously talked about it," Gaither said. "I wasn’t planning on losing this much weight, but that’s done now and we’re looking forward to putting it back on.
"To me, the weight, that’s not a big problem. I’m focused on playing football and making sure that I’m 100 percent. Coach Harbaugh, anything he has to say, I’ll abide by it and continue to work."
Starting at the NFL owners meetings when Harbaugh called Gaither out for not showing up for the offseason conditioning program, to switching positions to the right side and the former University of Maryland blocker not being given a new contract, it’s been a lot of back-and-forth between the team and Gaither as well as his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
"It’s tough," Harbaugh said. "The business side of it is the business side of it. He’s made some offseason moves that he feels like he has to make, and it’s something we talk about all the time.
"I thought he’d come in a little bit heavier than he did, but I also know that we’ve got time to get him right where he needs to be. And I think it’s got to be a collaboration with all of us, coaches, trainers, weight staff and Jared, and get him where he needs to be to start the season."
A restricted free agent signed to a $2.396 million one-year tender, Gaither said that he has discussed a target weight with Harbaugh.
Neither Gaither or Harbaugh would disclose a specific weight number.
"We don’t put a number on it right now," Harbaugh said. "I’d like to tell you something, but I’d just be throwing you some number. No, I think it’s strength and body composition, and you watch how he plays and you say, ‘OK, I think you need to be a little more physical here, maybe.’
"Or you say, ‘You know what? Maybe you’re a little too heavy.’ Maybe not in his case, but in another guy’s case you’re not moving as well as you need to. So, it’s kind of an ongoing process probably, but he needs a little more weight than what he’s got right now."
Gaither expressed confidence that he can be an effective right tackle even though he’s extremely light for the position.
"Whatever position I play, my weight will be fine," he said.
It’s been rumored that Gaither intentionally lost so much weight so that he would be eliminated from playing right tackle where he would grapple with bigger, stronger defensive ends.
Michael Oher is listed first on the depth chart at right tackle, but the linemen have alternated at both positions.
"Me and Michael are working," Gaither said. "We’ll work wherever they want us to work. Whatever they want me to play, I’ll play."
Gaither emphasized that he’s not dissatisfied with his status or playing in Baltimore.
"Unhappy would never be a word I would use," Gaither said. "I’m happy. I’m blessed. I wake up with a smile every morning. The coaches have the authority to place the player wherever they want."
Harbaugh referenced lingering business issues surrounding Gaither, who chose to skip the majority of the offseason workouts and practice sessions.
"If you asked every head coach in the NFL that question, they would tell you that’s something that you struggle with as a coach because you want all your guys here every day working to become as good as they can be. You have to understand there’s another aspect to this thing because it’s professional sports.
"The biggest thing I’ve learned, and this is advice that came from Andy Reid, is don’t judge those situations. Just try to relate with the player through those situations as best you can and try to come out the other end."