Starting out as an undrafted free agent from the little-known University of Maine, Mike Flynn worked his way from practice squad player to starter, leader and Super Bowl champion.
In one of the more heart-wrenching personnel moves in team history, the Ravens released the stalwart 11-year veteran Thursday.
"There are sad, tough days in this business, and this is one of those," said general manager Ozzie Newsome. "Mike Flynn represents everything good about the Ravens."
Flynn's time in Baltimore began as a gritty lineman that was signed off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad on Dec. 3, 1997. After seeing spot duty at guard for the next two seasons, Flynn cracked the starting lineup at right guard during the 2000 training camp.
He never dropped from the first string during the Ravens' magical run to the Super Bowl XXXV title that year, a crucial cog at both guard and center that helped pave the way to 2,199 rushing yards (fifth in the NFL). The emotional leader never dropped from the first string for the next eight years, bolstering Baltimore's running and passing attacks throughout his career.
Despite seemingly annual threats to unseat Flynn from his incumbent position, the Springfield, Mass. native always held off all comers. Of the 134 career games he's played in, Flynn started 115 of them, including all 16 contests in 2005 and 2006 and 15 last season.
Flynn started all 16 games in five of his eight seasons as a full-time starter. His 134 games played rank fourth in Ravens history, only behind linebacker Ray Lewis (162), tackle Jonathan Ogden (177), and kicker Matt Stover (191).
"He was a long-time leader on our team, especially among the offensive linemen," Newsome said. "He fought his way into the NFL; fought his way into our starting lineup; and he fought to help us win.
"His consistency is impressive; he very seldom left the lineup because of injury, including last season when he started 15 games. When we list the true Ravens in our history – and there is a Ravens' way that includes respect for your teammates and opponents, toughness, intelligence on the field, and passion for the game – Mike will be high on that list."
The Ravens could replace Flynn in one of two ways.
A simple fix would be to promote Chris Chester to start at center. Chester, a second-round selection in 2006, started once at the position last season and four other times at right guard before Ben Grubbs worked his way to the first string.
The other solution would be to shift Jason Brown from his typical left guard spot back to center, where he excelled as a three-year starter at the University of North Carolina.
A Brown move would mean that the Ravens would have to shuffle the offensive line. With Jonathan Ogden, Adam Terry and Jared Gaither manning the tackles, Marshal Yanda could move inside to guard with Grubbs.