Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ravens' Gradkowski, Shipley Duel Center Stage for Chance on O-Line Both Were Wpial Standouts

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ravens' Gradkowski, Shipley Duel Center Stage for Chance on O-Line Both Were Wpial Standouts

Article excerpt

OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley have become the center of attention on the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line.

Both players are locked in a competition to replace center Matt Birk, who retired after the Ravens won the Super Bowl in February. Birk never missed a start during his four years with Baltimore, and now it's time for someone else to snap the ball to quarterback Joe Flacco.

At this point, neither Gradkowski, a Dormont native who played at Seton-LaSalle High School in Mt. Lebanon, nor Shipley, who starred at Moon Area, has established himself as the favorite to start the opener on Sept. 5 in Denver.

"Everybody says, 'Who's the guy?'" run game coordinator Juan Castillo said Tuesday. "We've got to have some separation. Somebody's got to come to the top. The problem is that they're both playing real well right now. They're both good leaders, they're both tough and ready to fight."

Gradkowski was Birk's backup as a rookie last season. A fourth- round selection out of Delaware, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Gradkowski saw limited action in 2012 but has the advantage of knowing the system.

The 6-1, 309-pound Shipley, a standout for Penn State, came to the Ravens in May via a trade with Indianapolis, where he started in five games last year.

So, what's more valuable - familiarity with the playbook or starting experience?

"I don't know if anyone has the advantage," Gradkowski said. "We're both working pretty hard and both have the system down really well. Obviously game experience helps, but I had some game experience last year, too. I think it's a good battle."

Shipley said: "Anytime you go up against (Green Bay nose guard) B.J. Raji, you've got to get something out of it. I went up against him and a lot of good defensive players in this league. But in terms of me coming here, I felt like a rookie. The terminology is completely different. Once I got it down, though, football is football."

Gradkowski started against Tampa Bay in the preseason opener last week has been working with the first team in practice, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's got the edge. …

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