After a standout rookie season, Kelechi Osemele wanted to push himself for greatness.
He wanted to be named to a Pro Bowl, and be among the better interior linemen in the game. But a long-standing back injury got in the way, one he ignored throughout his college days at Iowa State. The injury became too painful to where he was shut down for the 2013 season and underwent surgery to correct it.
Osemele has gone through the rigors of rehab and the strains of working out to prepare himself for the upcoming season, and seemingly has a renewed outlook on the game. Excited about the challenges ahead, Osemele is looking forward to mixing it up in the trenches as Baltimore's left guard.
"It really sucked being out last year," Osemele told reporters after Wednesday's organized team activities practice. "When you lose something, you really appreciate it more and more."
Now, he'll get the chance to team up with left tackle Eugene Monroe on the left side of the line. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has already seen some glimpses, albeit without much contact, of what these two can do as a tandem on that side of the line.
"If you see these guys on their own, you see these guys early, late; you're probably going to see these two guys in the weight room or the meeting room working, and they've done a great job," Harbaugh said.
On the practice field, the idea of having that strong of a left side has kept the coaching staff from giving Osemele a longer look at right tackle during OTAs. Obviously, Osemele can kick out to right tackle if needed. He did it as a rookie before moving back to left guard for the Super Bowl championship run.
But if the Ravens have a strong presence on the left side, they'll be able to run the ball down opposing teams' throats. Next thing you know, under the Gary Kubiak offense, Joe Flacco is running play-action and testing secondaries deep. There's a lot to like about the potential of a strong left side to an offensive line.
"We can't lock ourselves into saying one thing or another, because we just don't know how it's going to play out," Harbaugh said. "He gives us flexibility because he can move out to tackle, but I sure like the way he and Eugene look over on that left side. That's the direction we're heading right now and hopefully we can maintain that course."
Monroe has been impressed with Osemele as well, stating how in shape he was for OTAs when they got underway last week. If these two continue to work in tandem, they could help provide a bounce-back group for an overall unit that struggled all season a year ago.
"[Osemele's] back to his usual self, running around," Monroe said. "[He is] one of the best-conditioned guys on the field, just grinding and trying to get better. We are even having to slow him down a little bit because it has been a while since he played, and we have certain rules we have to follow right now. We're just working together every day. I'm glad he's right next to me, I really am."