After starting at left guard the past two seasons, Bradley Bozeman took reps at center during OTAs Wednesday. If the season began today, Head Coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Bozeman would be the starting center, which is the position he played in college at Alabama.
Baltimore's offensive line will be revamped this offseason after Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was traded to Kansas City and center Matt Skura departed to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. There will be an open competition at left guard, while two veterans were signed during free agency to play the right side – guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
While things could change during training camp, Harbaugh said he was confident Bozeman would handle the switch to center very well.
"Two days in, he looks good. It doesn't seem hard for him," Harbaugh said. "He's very comfortable in there. He's making the calls. He's moving very naturally as a center. He's snapping the ball very well. I think that's where we're at – that'll be our starting point. Moving forward, he'll be the center, and then we'll let guys compete from there. He's our starting center today. We'll see where it goes, but I have a lot of confidence in Bradley. I think he's doing a great job, and I'm very excited about it, honestly. I'm looking forward to seeing how this offensive line shapes up."
Harbaugh Talks OTA Attendance and Vaccinations
Harbaugh estimated that around 80 of the 90 players on the roster attended voluntary OTAs, which was an excellent turnout. Leading up to OTAs, Harbaugh said the coaching staff did not try to persuade players to come.
Among those who did not attend were defensive linemen Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe, as well as cornerback Marcus Peters, tight end Mark Andrews, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
"It's a voluntary camp," Harbaugh said. "I can't speculate on different guys' thinking. The guys that aren't here, I really wouldn't expect to be here – veteran guys, especially D-linemen. Those guys, there's not that much for them to do at this camp. So, I understand it if they're not here. The fact that the guys are here, that's great."
Harbaugh said he has spoken to players about the different protocols that will be in place for players who are vaccinated, as opposed to players who are not vaccinated.
"One thing we have talked a lot about is the vaccination stuff," Harbaugh said. "Not in terms of trying to influence anybody, but in terms of understanding what will be required if you're vaccinated or not vaccinated. Those were kind of the biggest conversations we've had along those lines."
Bateman Leaves Practice, But Returns to Watch From Sideline
First-round draft pick Rashod Bateman departed practice early, but he returned to the sideline where he watched the remainder of practice. Harbaugh said the rookie wide receiver was suffering from muscle soreness.
"It was kind of precautionary; he was here all last week with the rookies," Harbaugh said. "There's some muscle soreness, things like that. We're going to be very precautionary at this time and make sure we get the guys the recovery they need and not too many reps. So, that was the idea there. There's no injury, but we want to make sure it stays that way with the muscle stuff [and] soft tissue stuff."
Patrick Ricard, Nick Boyle Among Players Watching From Sideline
Harbaugh enjoyed seeing players who are recovering from injury very engaged while watching practice from the sideline, including Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard and tight end Nick Boyle.
"Patrick is doing well and should be back out there in the individuals very soon," Harbaugh said.
Boyle suffered a season-ending knee injury in November, but he is also recovering well.
"He said he wouldn't rather be anywhere else," Harbaugh said. "He didn't have to be out there, but he was out there. Today, he was kind of leaning on the ball and I tried to somewhat gently kick it out of his grasp. He laughed at me and said, 'You're going to have to kick it a lot harder than that.' He was showing me how strong he is. Man, he looks good. I really can't wait to see him out there practicing. I don't know when it's going to be. I'll probably keep him out of these sessions, but he seems like he's chomping at the bit."