Christopher Hanewinckel, US Presswire
December 11, 2011
If you wanted, you could probably call Sunday's game The Revenge of John Harbaugh's Doghouse, considering Antwan Barnes and Gaither both played a big role in shutting down the Ravens. But to be fair, I think their situations were very different.
The Ravens contend they always liked Barnes when he was with the team, but if that's the case, they might as well admit they didn't really know how to use him. He's undersized and maybe he doesn't play the run as well as the Ravens would have liked, but he can get around the edge and blow up quarterbacks. He definitely has that kind of speed. It's hard to believe that a team that struggled so much at putting pressure on the passer could have justified keeping him inactive for a stretch of eight straight games in 2009. You can't keep everybody you'd like to develop, but I'm not sure Barnes got a fair shake.
Gaither, on the other hand, needed to nearly get bounced out of the league to realize what he was potentially throwing away. I'm not one of those people who believes he ever faked an injury. In fact, I think his back injury was very legitimate. I remember interviewing him at his locker last year after he tried to practice for a week, just to see if he could avoid the IR, and he was really distraught. I'm fairly certain he got choked up at one point and had to turn away from the interview. Whatever games he pulled prior to training camp, showing up 30 pounds lighter and looking like he hadn't lifted weights the entire off-season, I think he realized he had made some mistakes. All the rumors that multiple teams were coveting his services seem, in retrospect, like the whispers of an agent and nothing more. At some point, the Ravens needed to move on. They needed someone they could count on. They needed someone who could stay healthy and wanted to embrace the concept of team. Gaither wanted left tackle money, but didn't want to work his butt off to get it.
But, judging by his solid play the last three weeks with the Chargers, the light bulb may have gone off in Gaither's head. He's such a physical talent, it's a shame the Ravens dream of having Michael Oher on one side, and Jared Gaither on the other didn't work out. But I hope he permanently becomes the kind of elite player who showed up in spurts while he was in Baltimore.