Ravens, Gaither huddle

Street Talk Ravens, Gaither huddle

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OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens spoke with offensive tackle Jared Gaither on Wednesday regarding his health and future status with the team.

Although the meeting apparently went fine, no deal is imminent for the pending free agent. They’re expected to keep talking.

"Nothing cooking yet," a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Gaither missed the entire season with a thoracic disc injury in his upper back, but his health has apparently improved.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh both recently said that they’re interested in retaining Gaither.

"I would probably have to defer to Ozzie on what it will take to bring Jared back as far as a price tag and all that, but I would like to coach Jared Gaither," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he’s a very talented guy.

There’s so many factors that would determine whether that can happen or not, I’m not even sure what they all are. He’s definitely got the ability."

If Gaither is healthy and motivated, the 6-foot-9, 330-pound lineman could provide a boost to an offensive line that allowed 40 sacks last season and dealt with a slumping running game.

And, depending upon whether Gaither is classified as a restricted free agent or an unrestricted free agent, the Ravens could hold onto his rights without having to hammer out a new deal.

If Gaither is a restricted free agent, the Ravens could simply assign him a tender and own his rights for the 2011 season.

"Right now, based on the 2010 rules, we can tender Gaither," Newsome said. "He could still be the property of the Baltimore Ravens and John and I want to keep as many good players as we can keep."

Last year, Gaither was paid $2.396 million under a one-year restricted tender.

Gaither has repeatedly said he wants to remain in Baltimore.

"This is where I started my career, and I would love to start and end my career in the same place," Gaither said late in the season. "With that being said, I love this organization. I love the camaraderie of the team. This is my place. Hopefully, I can come back."

If Gaither is healthy, the Ravens could install him as their left tackle again and shift Michael Oher back to the right side. That would also allow the Ravens to shift right tackle Marshal Yanda back to his natural right guard spot.

When asked if he would want to sign with another team if offered the chance to play left tackle, Gaither replied: "That’s a long way away. Obviously, my main focus and goal is to get healthy now and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Gaither hurt his back during the first week of training camp and was carted off the field with back spasms.

He was diagnosed with a thoracic disk condition and went to California twice to visit back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.

Surgery was not recommended and no surgery is planned for the offseason.

"It’s been getting better," Gaither said. "I feel a lot better."

The Ravens had issues with Gaither last year during the offseason about the severity of a bruised heel that sidelined him during offseason minicamps, and Harbaugh got angry with the former University of  Maryland lineman when he didn’t report to the voluntary offseason conditioning program.

Gaither was disappointed to be placed on injured reserve, but never got healthy last season.

"Nobody wants to be put on IR," Gaither said. "Obviously, my initial reaction was I was disappointed about that, but I understand what has to go on in the organization. I take it in stride and I’m working hard to get healthy for next year.

"Obviously, I haven’t been able to play football. ‘It’s been pretty rough just having to watch, having an injury with my back. It’s been a rough year, but I take it all in stride and I’ll be ready for next year." 


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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. 

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