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Ravens Position Battle: Gino Gradkowski Has Competition at Center

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Despite Gino Gradkowski's year of experience, center appears up for grabs.

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Center Gino Gradkowski doesn't appear to have the starting center job at this time.
Center Gino Gradkowski doesn't appear to have the starting center job at this time.
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

OK, Ravens fans: My mistake.

A couple of days ago, I did a pre-camp 53-man roster projection. A few of you strongly disagreed with the projection leaving off A.Q. Shipley, the former Indianapolis center the Ravens traded for in May.

Shipley, sarcastically it would seem, didn't take too kind to it either (unless he was actually reading Von Miller's possible absence from the season-opener.)

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/JasonHButt">@JasonHButt</a> love that post buddy!</p>&mdash; AQ Shipley (@aqshipley) <a href="https://twitter.com/aqshipley/statuses/359311591633731584">July 22, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Shot fired?

Anyway, after Baltimore's first practice including rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked if second-year center Gino Gradkowski holds an edge of some sort for the starting job, based on his one year with the franchise.

"Well, A.Q. has got probably an edge, experience-wise, in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "Reggie [Stephens] is probably the least experienced guy, but it’s not like he’s new to it. He played with Kelechi [Osemele] at Iowa State and was a heck of a center. So, they’ve worked together – that doesn’t hurt. All those guys are young in one sense and veteran in another. So no, I think A.Q., as a veteran guy, doesn’t give Gino an edge that way, probably."

Oops.

Now, Harbaugh didn't flat out say Shipley was the leading candidate to start. But it certainly wasn't an endorsement of Gradkowski either.

Shipley, entering his fifth NFL season, started five games for the Colts in 2012. Pro Football Focus gave Shipley a season-ending score of 6.9, good for the 15th best score for a center in the NFL. The Ravens got Shipley cheap too, trading a conditional seventh round pick to the Colts for him. Colts fans were upset about this.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn't seem inclined to say Gradkowski led for the job either.

"I doubt it, [but] I’m not the one making the decision," Flacco said. "It’s up to the coaches and how those guys play, so you really just have to get down to how they play in practice and how they perform in the preseason games."

Gradkowski and Shipley's position battle begins on Thursday, when veterans practice for the first time in training camp.

Follow me on twitter: @JasonHButt