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Gino Gradkowski Off To Good Start As Joe Flacco's Center


The relationship between quarterback and center is literally the closest in football.

Thus, Joe Flacco's adjustment to his new starting center since the retirement of 15-year veteran Matt Birk – the man who fostered his growth for the past four years – is essential this summer.

So far, Flacco gives leading candidate Gino Gradkowski a thumbs up.

"It's been good," Flacco said during minicamp. "Matt was a great center, and I think Gino has done a great job of picking the offense up and being able to kind of get in there right away and do pretty good."

Gradkowski, a fourth-round pick out of Delaware (like Flacco) in 2012, didn't see any action last year until Week 17 in Cincinnati, when the Ravens' playoff berth was already sealed. Gradkowski spent the year learning from Birk and picking up Baltimore's offense.

Being able to keep the offense moving at a fast clip, and making the necessary calls to help his fellow linemen and Flacco identify the defense, is key for Gradkowski.

"He's a bright guy," Flacco said. "He's picked the offense up quickly and he's making all of his calls quickly and getting our offense going and allowing us to set that tempo."

The knock on Gradkowski has been his size. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, he's an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Birk. That makes for a smaller blocker on the line.

It also changes the dynamics of the snap. Even Flacco admitted he was concerned about taking snaps from the shorter Gradkowski.

"I know I loved taking the snap from Matt because I could basically stand straight up because he was so high," Flacco said. "I was a little bit worried about Gino at first, because I didn't think he was going to be like that, but he's been great. I've been comfortable underneath of him."

Gradkowski still has to beat out a push from A.Q. Shipley, who the Ravens acquired from Indianapolis via trade in early May. Gradkowski took the snaps with the first-team offense throughout minicamp, indicating it's his job to lose.

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