Late Saturday night, in what came as a surprise to many Baltimore Ravens fans, it was announced that OT Jared Gaither’s back was “totally healed” by his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, via his Twitter account.
Rosenhaus went on to say in his tweet, “He’s [Gaither] had a great offseason and will have a bounce back yr. He’s back to full strength & ready to go.”
Gaither confirmed Rosenhaus’ remarks in an interview with the Carroll County Times.
“Basically, I’m cleared,” Gaither said. “I just have to be cleared by the ballclub and take that physical, so, yeah, I’m doing a lot better. I’m feeling great. I can’t wait for next season. I’m blessed to be OK. I’m glad to be on the right track for redemption.”
It’s hard to tell whether Gaither’s back problems have truly subsided, or is the four-year pro just experiencing a period of remission in physical symptoms and pain that accompany the injury.
The Ravens’ front office, most notably head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome, have had an icy relationship with the left tackle from time-to-time, most recently over a foot injury Gaither sustained before the start of the 2010 season. Both Harbaugh and Newsome felt Gaither overplayed the injury, which, along with the back injury, caused Gaither to miss the entire 2010 regular season campaign.
Perhaps the strongest signal the Ravens’ front office sent to Gaither came in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, when Newsome selected UCF’s Jah Reid, to help shore up the right side of the offensive line.
Reid may not be starting material come time for Week 1 of the regular season, but Harbaugh has always maintained Reid will compete for the starting role at right tackle.
If the current CBA negotiations allow teams to operate under 2010 rules, it’s possible the Ravens might look into bringing back Gaither to operate at left tackle, in effect, moving OT Michael Oher back to the right side, where he played his best football.
In the same interview with the Carroll County Times, Gaither was transparent regarding his feelings about where he ultimately lines up on the field.
“I’ve been playing left tackle my whole career,” Gaither said. “It wouldn’t make much sense to change now and get a whole new position underway at this point in time.”
Gaither has a strong point in the argument over roster spots and playing time, since the Ravens’ offensive line operated at its best with Gaither at his natural position and Oher, along with guard Marshal Yanda, over on the right side of the line.
Baltimore’s front office has a big decision to make over whether or not to re-sign Gaither this offseason. Last year, QB Joe Flacco was the recipient of 40 sacks—the most in his first three years with the Ravens.
Gaither isn’t exactly the poster child of durability on the football field, and quite possibly, not the most consistent when it comes to giving his all during team practices and mini camps. Nevertheless, Gaither remains a fan favorite in Baltimore, mainly because he shows up to play on game day, when healthy.
It’s a fact—when Gaither isn’t on the football field, Flacco takes more sacks. In 2008, during his rookie year, Flacco was sacked 32 times. That number increased to 36 in 2009 and eventually 40 last year.
With the current CBA talks failing to make much headway over the past month, Gaither realizes it’s out of his hands as to whether he is ultimately re-signed by the Ravens or not, making it clear when he spoke to the Times.
“I have no control over that,” Gaither said. “I just hope everything gets worked out. However that gets worked out, if they do tender me or don’t, there’s not that much I can do about that. I’m prepared for anything. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Ravens are one of the least prepared teams for a long NFL lockout. Many key free agents have yet to be signed due to the ongoing CBA negotiations, and Gaither might be the next casualty in Baltimore if the NFL decides to adopt new rules for the 2011 season, onward.
Will Gaither go on to be a perennial Pro-Bowler in another city, remaining injury-free all at the same time? Obviously, that’s a risk the Ravens face, and, at this point, all indicators say Newsome and Co. are willing to take that chance.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
Follow Todd on Twitter! Twitter.com/ravens023