Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Whenever a professional ballplayer goes down with an injury and the “Next Man Up” happens to play well in the injured player’s place, the name of Wally Pipp almost always comes up. And if the replacement player manages to keep the position, then the ousted incumbent was Pipped.

I thought of that recently when I listened to Chris Chester describe how he was ready to get back in at right guard and start on Saturday against the Redskins at Fed Ex Field.

"I think I'm going to definitely be playing," Chester said. "The foot feels much better, and I'm moving around well."

After listening to Chester, I had to wonder if he would be so quick and eager to return from his foot injury suffered against the Eagles if the Ravens 2007 No. 1 pick Ben Grubbs wasn’t nipping at his heels. What if Grubbs were to build on his performance against the Giants and have a great game v. Washington? No. 1 picks don’t stay on the bench for long and most observers believe that Chester is destined to become the team’s center eventually anyway.

Competition is a good thing for any team. It sharpens a player’s focus and elevates his game. Who among us doesn’t step up a bit more when our jobs are threatened and the challenge intensifies?

Many believe that Chester should start at center over Mike Flynn. Back in 2005 Flynn was pushed around by opposing defensive tackles seemingly at will. He was a Matchbox Twenty song. How many times have you seen an opposing nose tackle sack a quarterback on a running play? Pittsburgh’s Casey Hampton did it to Mike Flynn and Kyle Boller here in Baltimore during the forgettable 2005 season.

To his credit Flynn rebounded and was solid in 2006. And while his status as a starter is likely only temporary, he brings intangibles that Chester can’t at this point in his career.

Yesterday as a guest on the Anita Marks Show, we had Jason Brown join us and we talked about the chemistry of the offensive line and how important it is to the unit’s effectiveness. Brown said that playing offensive line is “90 percent mental, 10 percent physical.”

Think about that statement.

Here we have 350 pound behemoths trying to knock the snot out of each other to win the battle for the line of scrimmage yet Brown without a hitch in his annunciation states that the game is 90 percent mental for the offensive line.

Brown added that playing between two savvy vets like Jonathan Ogden and Mike Flynn has accelerated his learning curve. When Brown plays well, little is said. When he doesn’t the vets let him know it.

Could the younger and less experienced Chris Chester deliver such lessons if he were the starting center? Who might teach Ben Grubbs if he was sandwiched between Chester and Adam Terry?

The athleticism has improved on the O-Line as well as the depth and that enhances the level of competition. That can only help the Ravens just as Mike Flynn will help by accelerating the learning curve for players like Chester and Grubbs. Once the mental part of the game becomes more natural, the athleticism can take over and when that happens, Flynn will have completed his job and perhaps his career.

It’s ironic that Mike Flynn’s leadership might ultimately cost him his job.

And to do so willingly is the ultimate sign of a team player.