For Bradley Bozeman, switching from left guard to center feels like returning home.
Bozeman played center during his entire career at Alabama, but made the transition to guard after he was drafted by the Ravens in 2018.
Now after starting every game at left guard for the past two seasons, Bozeman was designated as the starting center by Head Coach John Harbaugh at the beginning of OTAs. It's an important move for Bozeman and for the entire offense, but playing center is a return to Bozeman's comfort zone.
"I played (center) four years at Alabama. I played a little bit in high school," Bozeman said on "The Lounge" podcast. "I feel like it's my natural position. I think I really thrive there. I'm really excited about the transition and moving back in."
During OTAs, Bozeman has begun the process of reacclimating himself to the position. The center is the point person on the offensive line, responsible for changing blocking assignments and helping the quarterback anticipate blitzes. That was something Bozeman didn't do as a left guard, but he enjoys the mental challenge of playing center.
"That's the biggest key to center is knowing the playbook, knowing what to do, knowing where to put people," Bozeman said. "Whenever you get a funky look on defense, getting guys on the right page and the right people. It's just preparation. Knowing what to do, where to be, how the running back's going to react, how the tight end's going play, how our tackles are going to set. Knowing the whole operation and making sure everyone's on the same page. If we're all on the same page, we're all right or we're all wrong together."
It will also be important for Bozeman to work well with quarterback Lamar Jackson, and to avoid snap miscues, particularly when Jackson is in the shotgun. There were some errant snaps that hurt the Ravens at critical times last season, including the playoff loss against the Buffalo Bills when Jackson was injured while being tackled after retrieving a wild snap.
Jackson and Bozeman already have a bond, but they'll work together even more closely in Bozeman's new role.
"I've always had a close relationship with all my quarterbacks," Bozeman said. "It's very important to have that open line of communication, for him to be able to come to me and say, 'Your snap was off high left.' And I can come to him and say, 'Your hand placement needs to be more to your right, you need to be more firm.' It's huge to be able to communicate those things. Him and I are responsible for making things right. He's got the receivers and I've got the o-line."
Bozeman isn't taking for granted that he will win the starting job at center, but he plans to earn it. Stiff competition is something Bozeman had to deal with at Alabama, an elite program that attracts many of the nation's top recruits. Bozeman joined the Ravens as a sixth-round pick who had not been invited to the NFL Combine, but he believes competing at Alabama prepared him to earn his status in the NFL.
"I got to learn all my hard life lessons there (at Alabama)," Bozeman said. "They try to recruit you out of there every single day. It's just like the NFL. They're bringing in five-star guys trying to get you out the door if they can produce and play. Especially if they have more potential than you as an older guy.
"I didn't start until going into my fourth year. Learning those lessons, learning that nothing's guaranteed to you, because you know somebody's knocking on your door to take your spot."
In 2021, playing center is the new spot for Bozeman, and he's looking forward to it.
"Just taking advantage of every opportunity I'm given," Bozeman said. "I'm pumped about it."