In the rough-and-tumble world of the NFL, the difference between playing the left and right tackle positions on the offensive line is usually millions of dollars and a certain amount of prestige.
But for the Ravens' Michael Oher, ceding the left tackle spot to newly-signed Bryant McKinnie and returning to right tackle could result in something even greater: wins and possibly the Lombardi Trophy.
"I'm a football player," Oher said after the team's 34-31 win against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night. "I love being out there. This is my dream, to play in the NFL, and the Ravens drafted me. There's no pride involved. I'm trying to win games. I want to win a Super Bowl. It's no big deal for me to go back to right tackle. I never had a problem with it."
According to coach John Harbaugh, Oher was just as upfront with him and general manager Ozzie Newsome when they talked to him on Tuesday night about agreeing with McKinnie to a two-year contract with a maximum value of $7.5 million (including a $1 million signing bonus).
"Michael is about as good a person and as great a team guy as I've ever been around in my career," Harbaugh said after the contest against Washington. "Ozzie and I brought him in, and we talked to him the night before last. He said it before we said it. 'Whatever I need to do to help this be the best football team and the best offensive line it can be, [I'll do it]. All the career stuff can wait.' We're trying to be the best football team we can be, and that's exactly what he said."
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Oher, the subject of a book titled "The Blind Side" that described his tumultuous journey from the streets of Memphis to being a first-round pick in 2009, started 11 games at right tackle and five at left tackle in his rookie campaign.
But when Jared Gaither suffered a back injury during last year's training camp, Oher was switched permanently to left tackle.
According to the players and coaches, the move was successful as Oher started all 16 games at left tackle and helped quarterback Joe Flacco become the franchise leader in passing yards, touchdown passes and completions.
But Oher also led the team in penalties (11) and false starts (eight). He had better numbers — eight and six, respectively — during his rookie year.
Oher, who has been flagged for one false start in three preseason games, said he doesn't anticipate much difficulty returning to right tackle.
"You've got to adjust,' he said. "You've got to play football. You've got to do what the team needs and as long as we're out there on the field and making holes for the running backs and protecting Joe, we'll be all right."
McKinnie, who is being listed at 6-8 and 345 pounds by the Ravens, started 131 games at left tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. But the Vikings released him on Aug. 2 after he reportedly showed up at training camp weighing close to 400 pounds.
At his peak, McKinnie powered Minnesota's ground game, assisting that organization in six of the top eight rushing seasons in Vikings history. Oher said McKinnie's resume is impressive.
"He's a Pro Bowl-caliber player," Oher said. "He blocked for [running back] Adrian Peterson, [quarterback] Brett Favre. He's been to an NFC championship game. He's going to be a big help to the offensive line, and I think we'll do great this year with him."
While confirming that McKinnie would line up at left tackle and Oher would return to right tackle, Harbaugh maintained that the team's options would remain open.
"We'll see how that goes," he said. "Everything is fluid. I'd love to say that's set in stone, but that's not set in stone."
Oher said he wasn't sure if he and McKinnie would line up at their respective positions in the team's final preseason contest at the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night. Starters are usually kept out of the preseason finales to avoid injury, but the coaching staff may be interested in seeing how the reconfigured offensive line executes.
But Oher reiterated that he's comfortable with bringing McKinnie on board.
"No doubt about it," Oher said. "You always want good players, and you always want to play with the best guys and give your team a chance to win the championship. That's what it's all about — winning."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun