Left Guard Battle Intensifies With Bobbie Williams


The competition for the starting left guard spot got tighter in the last few days.

The Ravens signed veteran interior lineman Bobbie Williams, adding him to a battle that already includes rookies Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski and second-year linemen Jah Reid and Justin Boren. In his first practices during this week's minicamp, Williams has jumped right in and ran with the first-team offense.

Before signing Williams, one of the younger players was expected to win the starting job.

While Williams may now be the leader in the race, Head Coach John Harbaugh emphasized that the veteran wasn't brought in because the team lacked confidence in the younger players.

"I saw some things that people say it's a lack of confidence in the young guys. It's not," Harbaugh said. "We are just building an offensive line. We'll have competition. Those young guys are going to be in there competing. The best guys are going to play. It's nice to have another veteran guy in the mix. It makes us stronger."

Williams said after Wednesday's minicamp practice that he's looking forward to competing for the open spot.

"I'm up for the challenge and I'm going to try to maximize every chance I get," Williams said.

The 35-year-old offensive lineman spent the last eight seasons with the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals and he always seemed to give the Ravens fits. Those days are over now, as Williams signed a two-year contract with the Ravens last week and has added a veteran presence to an already-tight battle for the starting left guard spot.

"We have always liked him," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He is a veteran player, very physical guy. He has a great demeanor, great personality, so it's good to have him in there."

Ravens All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is especially glad to see Williams in a Ravens uniform.

"I'm not going to have as much of a headache anymore playing Cincinnati," Ngata joked. "Bobbie and I used to go at all the time and we have so much respect for each other."

The 13-year veteran was targeted by the Ravens from the time free agency opened in March, but he was coming off ankle surgery that ended his season last year after nine games. The Ravens talked with him early in the free-agency process, but wanted to see how his ankle progressed before signing him.

"We had to see how that developed," Harbaugh said. "June 1 seemed to be a good target date. As soon as June 1 came around, we were able to work out the deal."

Williams was primarily a right guard during his time in Cincinnati, but he is confident that he'll be able to switch over to the left side at this point of his career. The main difference, Williams said, is changing his footwork to a degree.

"It don't even matter, flip the coin," Williams responded when asked if he prefers the left or right side. "I'm enjoying left right now quite a bit, so I plan on taking it and running with it and adding it to the resume."

In addition to switching sides, Williams will also have to adapt to the stretch zone blocking scheme that the Ravens run, as [add] opposed to the inside power game that he was familiar with in Cincinnati.

In his first two days of learning the system, Williams is already impressed.

"The scheme right here is awesome," Williams said. "It's good for me as a big guy that can move and has a little strength to him."

The attraction to Baltimore for Williams was that he believes the Ravens are a team that could win a Lombardi trophy this season.

"I thought this was a great opportunity to go for the big dance, to get the major accomplishment that everybody plays for," Williams said. "We have a great opportunity here to go to a Super Bowl and win."

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