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CHESTER'S NOW SOLIDLY PLANTED AT RIGHT GUARD

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Chris Chester has started the Ravens' past 18 games at right guard, cementing his status at that position.

John Matsko came to a similar conclusion - more than three years ago.

While preparing for the 2006 draft as the offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Matsko watched footage of Chester - playing guard for the Oklahoma Sooners - tangle with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and the Oregon Ducks in the Holiday Bowl.

That performance convinced Matsko, who became the Ravens offensive line coach before the 2008 season, that Chester had a future as a guard.

"The big selling point about moving him inside was when he played against Oregon," Matsko said. "When you watched him, you always had that in the back of your mind. 'This guy could be an inside player, an athletic player.' What he needed to do was add some weight and some strength, and he's done that."

After dalliances in his first two seasons at the center and tight end positions, Chester, the team's second-round pick in 2006, has anchored himself at right guard, lining up between center Matt Birk and right tackle Michael Oher.

Chester's play might be considered a surprise. He was initially the backup to 2007 third-round pick Marshal Yanda, who started the first five games of last season at right guard.

But when Yanda tore the anterior cruciate, medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 12, Chester filled the void.

Yanda is healthy again, but this time he is backing up Chester, who said he didn't use Yanda's return as motivation.

"I was more motivated just to do a good job for the team and the guys in the room because Marshal had played at a high level," Chester said. "When it was my turn to play, I didn't want there to be a drop-off. I wanted us as a group to continue to play at a high level, so I had to do my part."

Chester, 6 feet 3, who now weighs 315 pounds, has drawn praise for his ability to pull, and his speed and athleticism to get downfield and open up lanes for the Ravens' running backs.

"His athletic ability is what really kind of sets him apart," Matsko said. "He can pull and run and block in space. He has very good punch in his pass protection, and he's got outstanding lateral quickness. He's playing up to the very best of his ability, and that's what we want out of all our guys."

Left guard Ben Grubbs said opposing defensive linemen tend to underestimate Chester's ability because he's doesn't have the body guards typically have.

"A lot of people see his size and think, 'OK, he might get pushed back,' " Grubbs said. "But he holds his ground. He's quick, he's explosive and he's been getting the job done. He does a great job with what God gave him."

Chester continues to solidify his grasp on the guard position, but he said he uses slip-ups like his holding and false-start penalties in Sunday's 30-7 rout of the Denver Broncos as reminders that he can still refine his technique.

"I never get too comfortable because we're all a play away from having to switch things up," he said. "I would say that I'm just continuing to embrace the experience that's being given to me each week. I guess that could be interpreted as confidence, but I think I'm just learning the position more and more."

Notes:: On a scale of 1 to 10, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata rated his chances of playing Sunday despite a sprained right ankle as "a 9 or 8." Ngata, who has not practiced this week and is listed as questionable, has started all 55 games in his four-year career. "It feels great," Ngata said of the ankle. "Actually, it feels pretty good. There's not much swelling or anything. Just stiffness and soreness. So hopefully, we can get it full to go, and I'll go for it." ... Safeties Haruki Nakamura (strained abdominal muscle) and Tom Zbikowski (illness) are also questionable. Nakamura was upgraded Friday to full participation after being limited Thursday. Zbikowski was limited for the second consecutive day. Linebackers Jarret Johnson (left shoulder) and Prescott Burgess (illness), tight end Todd Heap (ankle), fullback Le'Ron McClain (shoulder), cornerback Frank Walker (illness) and long snapper Matt Katula (sore elbow) participated fully and are probable. ... Bengals strong safety Roy Williams (forearm) was limited in practice and is questionable for Sunday. Fullback Jeremi Johnson (sprained left knee) and defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot) are probable. ... The last time these two teams met, the offensive line had to preoccupy itself with handling Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, who led the NFL in Week 5 with eight sacks. Odom is gone for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon, but Grubbs said the unit can't afford to take Cincinnati's defensive front lightly. "I'm sure that's a huge loss for them, but just like any other team, they have backups," Grubbs said. "It doesn't matter who's in there. We just have to look at the numbers instead of the names - no matter who we play." ... With the Ravens deemed 3-point favorites despite losing to the Bengals last month and having to fly to Cincinnati, coach Marvin Lewis wasn't buying into what could be perceived as a slight. "It doesn't matter what we are," Lewis said. "We've just got to play. We have a nine-game season and our first week is this week against the Ravens, and what counts is this game." ... The gift basket of deodorant that Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said he sent to Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and the secondary hasn't raised a stink with the Ravens players. "It's all in fun," Suggs said.

RAVENS@ BENGALS

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens

by 3

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