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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Shipley pushing Gradkowski for Ravens' starting center job

OWINGS MILLS - Gino Gradkowski is the one listed as the first-team center, the one who started the Ravens' first preseason game, the one who has been widely viewed as Baltimore's heir apparent at center ever since Matt Birk retired in February.
But veteran A.Q. Shipley is, at the very least, pushing Gradkowski for the starting job.
Baltimore traded for Shipley in May, and Gradkowski and Shipley have shared time with the first-team offense through the first two-plus weeks of training camp.
"They're still making good progress, still battling it out every single day," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "They work extremely hard, work extremely well. Both guys are growing, and both guys are getting better, and I like where we are there. It's a very, very competitive atmosphere. Both guys are still doing extremely well."
It still appears to be Gradkowski's job to lose.
Baltimore picked Gradkowski in the fourth round of last year's draft. He saw extensive time at center only in the Ravens' regular season finale against Cincinnati, but he received positive reviews for his play last summer as well as for how he fared in that game against the Bengals.
As for how he's done this summer, Gradkowski said he feels like he's been playing well.
"I feel like I've had a good camp," Gradkowski said. "I've been working pretty hard, and I feel good about where I'm at right now."
Gradkowski hasn't yet played in a meaningful regular season game, but teammates and coaches have repeatedly voiced confidence in him.
"I think Gino's a good player," Shipley said. "I've said that all along. I've said it's going to be a competition. And I look forward to that competition. It brings out the best in both of us. We've become close through it, and we kind of lean on each other. Obviously one of us is going to win the job, and we'll go from there."
Shipley didn't get the start during the Ravens' preseason opener last week, but he has continued to see extensive time with the first-team offense during practice.
He played 26 snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week after entering with the second-team offensive line early in the second quarter.
"I thought I played well," Shipley said. "I thought what we've done and worked on in practice translated to the game. I didn't think I got beat at all in the preseason game, and I think I'm playing well in practice."
Shipley, 27, was a practice squad player during his first two years in the NFL and was out of football during the 2011 regular season, but he played in 14 games for the Indianapolis Colts last year and started five when the Colts' starting center, Samson Satele, was sidelined by an injury.
In college, Shipley was a three-year starter at center for Penn State. He was an All-American as a senior in 2008 and won the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the top center in college football.
"I'm a tough, gritty, hard-nosed type of player," Shipley said. "I'm going to scrap. I'm going to play to the whistle. I'm going to annoy defensive lineman. I'm going to do all that type of stuff. I'm going to do everything I can to just be that scrappy type of guy."
Baltimore's coaches haven't given any indication as to which center is the leading candidate for the job, but Caldwell said Monday that the final three preseason games will go a long way in helping to decide.
"We'll just see how they play," Caldwell said. "We've got a couple more ballgames left. ... We'll make a decision [later on], but that's really going to be the determiner is how they play."


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