The Competition: Center

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"The Competition" is a * *BaltimoreRavens.com series that breaks down every position leading up to training camp.

Returning Players

Matt Birk (6-foot-4, 310 pounds, 15th season): Thought to possibly be retiring, Birk re-signed this offseason for two years instead. He was still one of the league's top pass-blocking centers last season. The soon-to-be 36 year old hasn't had any major surgeries (just a minor procedure to repair varicose veins in his leg) this offseason, and should come in healthy.

Justin Boren (6-2, 325, first season): Boren spent most of last season on the practice squad, but was pulled up on Jan. 3 in time for the playoffs, as he could have been targeted by another team. The Ravens like Boren's grittiness and versatility, as the former Buckeye also plays guard.

Cecil Newton (6-2, 315, first season): Newton was signed to the practice squad in late November. The older brother of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, Cecil is on the other end of the stardom spectrum. Cecil also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but has yet to play in a game.

New Vet

Tony Wragge (6-4, 310, eighth season): Wragge signed on June 12 as the Ravens were in the midst of minicamp. He started eight games in St. Louis last year, including some at [add] guard and center. He started 10 games at right guard for San Francisco in 2008. Wragge's versatile and experienced.

Rookies

Gino Gradkowski (6-3, 300, Delaware):The fourth-round pick is making the leap from small-school competition to the NFL. He has the tools with good athleticism and a rough-and-tumble style of play. He's known for his intelligence working at the point of attack.

Position Battle

Birk will be the starter barring any injury. Despite some minor injuries, including in his knees, Birk hasn't missed a game as a Raven in three years. The veteran all but has the position locked up.

Gradkowski is learning from Birk, and appears to be the center of the future. He likely will be in a backup role during his rookie season.

Wragge, Boren and Newton will be competing for spots at center and guard. One, maybe two, will get a spot. The best competition looks to be between the veteran Wragge and youngster Boren.

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