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Kracalik a Utility Man


The Ravens are still piecing together their starting offensive line for this weekend's preseason home opener against the Minnesota Vikings at M&T Bank Stadium, but one thing is for certain - Mike Kracalik will be in that unit.

He just doesn't know what position that will be quite yet.

Since first-stringers Jared Gaither and Adam Terry were sidelined due to ankle injuries in the first week of training camp, Kracalik has been the yeoman worker, seeing time at both right and left tackle.

As mainly a practice squad player over his past two seasons in Baltimore, Kracalik's presence has been invaluable.

The 6-foot-8, 340-pound lineman routinely switches from the right to the left side, sometimes in the same practice.

Against the New England Patriots, that even happened in the same game, where Kracalik, 25, played the entire first half at his normal right tackle spot, moving to left tackle for the remainder of regulation.

Such constant uncertainty could be troublesome for a young prospect attempting to make an active roster for the first time in his career, but Kracalik is up to the challenge.

"I've done it a lot before in preseason games, but I do focus more on the right side because that's where I've played the most here," he said. "When I move to the left, I just call on experience and slide over to that side. It hasn't been a problem."

Kracalik's situation is part of a different mentality new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wants to impart on his charges.

Taking a page from his defensive counterpart, Rex Ryan, who regularly has his players line up out of position to confuse the opposition, Cameron is preaching versatility on the offense.

"You talk about the Raven way, and you try to develop that," Cameron said. "I look at Rex and this defense, and I'm trying to get our offense to think the same way.

"Left tackle - right tackle. Right guard - left guard. If our linebackers can play safety, and our nose guards can play linebacker, we want to create as many options for our offense as we can."

Kracalik is a perfect example of Cameron's philosophy. While seeing time at both tackles, he has also filled in at tight end in the Ravens' jumbo package.

During Tuesday's practice, the San Diego, Calif., native delivered at tight end when he got ahead of the pack to deliver a monster block that sprung rookie running back Allen Patrick for a big gain.

"I've played both tackles, and even played guard in college," explained Kracalik, a San Diego State alumnus. "I'm just here to play football, so if that means I'm at tackle or tight end, so be it. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team."

Kracalik spent the majority of the past three seasons on Baltimore's practice squad after he was waived by the New York Jets after 2005's training camp. He saw time in four regular-season contests, but even in his previous preseason experience, Kracalik never got the playing time that he has in Gaither and Terry's absence.

Where he plays in Saturday's matchup hinges on whether recent free agent-signee Chad Slaughter is fit to go at left tackle or rookie Oniel Cousins will play on the right side.

The Ravens will take the next two practice days to make a final decision by the end of the week.

"We've got so many practices between now and then, so many things could change," Cameron affirmed. "We'll know by Friday what our starting lineup will be."

One constant is Kracalik, whom Cameron thinks has definitely taken advantage of the added reps.

"I think he's done a great job," Cameron noted. "He can continue to get better. All these game reps he's been getting are worth their weight in gold for our offense.

"Obviously, we're looking forward to getting Jared and Adam back, but in the meantime, he's one of our starters. He's doing a heck of a job."

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