Hale Settling In At Center


With various players in and out of the lineup because of injury or the occasional Over-30 Club exemption for center Matt Birk, second-year lineman David Hale is seeing more and more time on the field.

A 3 1/2-year starter at right tackle at Weber State, Hale is developing into a versatile interior blocker.

Recently, he has played both guard and center.

Hale will admit that the transition inside from tackle to guard and then to center, which he said was suggested by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, hasn't been easy. But he also feels he is making steady progress.

"Coach Cameron said, 'You have the potential to be a great center,'" said Hale, a fourth-round draft pick last season. "At first, I almost didn't believe him. The more and more I worked at it, though, I started to believe in myself. I really got in the playbook and worked hard. I still have a long ways to go, but it's coming along."

The Ravens would agree that Hale still needs work. At 6-foot-6, 310-pounds, Hale is a widebody that owns a good frame for a center. He must now refine his technique.

"David Hale has looked OK," said head coach John Harbaugh. "He's now a two-position guy. He's high cut, which is good for the quarterback. At the same time, he's got to play a little lower with more power, from a more bent-knee position."

Sculpting that clay is offensive line coach John Matsko and assistant Andy Moeller, both of whom are extremely hands-on and vocal in their instruction.

And then there is Birk, the six-time Pro Bowler who joined Baltimore this offseason from the Minnesota Vikings.

Hale said he studied tape of Birk even before the two became teammates, and now that they are, Birk has been an invaluable mentor.

"One of the best things that happened to me in my career, from junior high to now, is having someone like him that can help me," Hale said. "He's one of the best Superman centers to ever play the game. He's seen it all. When I ask a question, Matt has the answer.

"He always is one step ahead of the lineman. He knows what they're going to do already, so that's why he looks so fluid out there."

To get there, Hale had to change his mindset when it came to blocking.

Offensive tackles operate in a larger space than the area from guard to guard. Hale said that tackles can sometimes absorb rushers, while guards and centers must engage earlier.

"You have to take the battle to them sooner inside," Hale said. "That's the biggest thing I had to learn. You don't want to give them any space and get on them quick. D-linemen are always big-strong guys.

"Footwork is something that I've had to work on a lot, too. It's not quite where the coaches and I want it to be."

Hale and tackle Oniel Cousins, a fellow member of the Class of '08, can be important pieces to the Ravens' offensive line depth.

"We were both drafted to play," Hale explained. "Our coaches always say that everyone is a starter, so we have to take that next step."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content