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Ravens' Jah Reid: 'I have big shoes to fill'

OWINGS MILLS - Jah Reid knows he'll have to earn a starting job at left offensive guard, not an entirely unfamiliar spot for the Baltimore Ravens' offensive lineman.

The opportunity begins now as the Ravens launch their voluntary offseason conditioning program today, and Reid intends to take full advantage of the chance to replace Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs.

With Grubbs having left Baltimore to sign a five-year, $36 million contract with the New Orleans Saints, Reid is atop the depth chart at left guard.

"Ben was a great guy and a great teammate and a great mentor, so I have some big shoes to fill," Reid told the Times Sunday. "I welcome the challenge to be a reliable starter for this team. This is a great opportunity. I'm pumped. I can't wait to play left guard. That's going to be great. My goal is to start every game."

Drafted in the third round out of Central Florida a year ago as an offensive tackle, Reid practiced at left guard last season.

He played in every game as a rookie, operating as a reserve tackle and a blocking tight end in short-yardage situations.

Although he's unusually tall for a guard at 6-foot-7, Reid does have the bulk and strength at 335 pounds.

"I practiced a lot at left guard, and it's a little different," Reid said. "You have to bend your knees and be flexible to get a low pad level. I work on that a lot. All offensive linemen have the same purpose: protect the quarterback and open holes for the running back.

"I have the strength for drive blocking, I believe that strongly. Having a year in the system and being out on the field last year, it's going to do nothing but help me in the long run."

Reid has been working out at a training facility in Orlando, Fla., lifting weights and running.

"I'm definitely in good shape," said Reid, a two-time All-Conference USA selection. "I've been focused on getting stronger this offseason. I've been doing everything to get ready, the whole nine yards. I got back into town a week ago and I can't wait to start the offseason program."

One asset working in Reid's favor: the knowledge and presence of six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk next to him.

"That's definitely great," Reid said. "Birk helps out a lot out there. He's like a genius. That's awesome that he'll be next to me."

A year ago, the Ravens traded up five spots to acquire Reid with the 85th overall pick as they sent their original third-round pick and a sixth-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has endorsed Reid as the current starter, but indicated that he won't simply be handed the job.

The Ravens have been evaluating several draft prospects that could potentially play left guard, including Wisconsin linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler.

"He is definitely a possible answer at left guard," Harbaugh said of Reid. "I would say right now he is the left guard. He has to earn that spot, but we'll continue to be looking for players. Our goal will be to put the best five offensive linemen on the field. Jah, I'd like to see him be one of those guys, but it's going to be up to him to earn that spot."

Baltimore could also look to bolster the position with a veteran lineman like Jason Brown or Eric Steinbach after the NFL draft. They've offered Brown a contract, but it was a low offer. Brown has visited the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers.

At this point, though, the job is Reid's to lose.

"You always expect competition," he said. "They're always going to bring people in. You have to win your position."

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