In a surprising development along the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line, Jared Gaither and Michael Oher both took turns at the pivotal left tackle position at the launch of training camp.
The Ravens had moved Gaither to the right side during minicamps after he skipped the majority of the offseason conditioning program.
He was sidelined for all but a tiny portion of the spring practices with a bruised foot, and he was the subject of rampant trade rumors.
Now, he’s suddenly a prime contender to retain his old position.
"I have no expectations," Gaither said. "Really when I was coming into camp, I just planned to keep my head down and work. That’s what I’m doing. That’s my approach every year. No matter what happens, work.
"I’m just here to work. That’s my job title, to be the best football player I can become and that’s what I’m going to do."
Gaither experienced a scare during the afternoon practice when he was carted off the field with a lower back injury with trainers applying ice. Trainer Bill Tessendorf later confirmed that it was just cramps and isn’t regarded as serious, according to team spokesman Kevin Byrne.
What is serious is determining who will protect the blind side of franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.
Will it be Gaither, a 6-foot-9, 315-pound former University of Maryland blocker?
Or will Oher, an all-rookie selection last year who started in Gaither’s place several times last season due to injuries, assume the role?
"We’re going to play the best guys in the best position," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "For our offensive line, I think that has yet to be determined. So, Jared will get shots at the left and the right side, Michael will get shots at the left and the right side.
"In our offense, they play both sides anyway. If you noticed, they came out the very first play, I think both guys were on the right side. So, he’s got to learn to play both sides and we’ll just see how it shakes out."
The multi-tasking aspects of learning both spots with vastly different footwork and types of defensive linemen to block presents a major challenge.
"It’s extremely hard," Gaither said. "That’s just a part of the job, but I’m taking on that role. Me and Mike. It is what it is."
Gaither is noticeably slimmer.
He has lost a lot of weight, about 25 pounds.
That should alleviate the additional pounding on his foot and toe, which have hampered him in the past.
He resembles his old Eleanor Roosevelt days when he was a good enough basketball prospect that the University of South Carolina offered him a scholarship.
"I’m blessed," Gaither said. "I have a base to play pretty much a lot of positions. So whatever they decide is best for the team and me, if I’ll fit there, I’ll do it."
Gaither said he didn’t let the trade rumors frustrate him.
Gaither was linked most often to the Buffalo Bills, but nothing concrete emerged as general manager Ozzie Newsome said that the Ravens didn’t receive any offers that interested them enough to go forward with trade discussions.
"I’m not a disgruntled person," Gaither said. "I’m happy and cheerful and smiling all the time. Disgruntled, no. I would never do that to the organization, and I wouldn’t do that to my teammates to cause a distraction or anything.
"If there’s ever a problem, I would just go to the coach and discuss it. It’s like anything else, but I would never be disgruntled or try to cause any problems or anything like that."