Tyler Linderbaum isn’t always the loudest voice in the room, but being vocal will be part of his job.
The Ravens traded up to draft Linderbaum with the 25th-overall pick, and the rookie is being thrown into the fire as the presumed starting center. That important role will require him to call out protections and make adjustments with veteran linemates who have far more experience, such as All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Morgan Moses.
Linderbaum is growing into his new role during training camp as he evolves into a leader on the offensive line.
“I think it’s a day-by-day thing,” Linderbaum said. “Every practice, there’s something I can improve on to make this offensive line better. [I’ll] just continue to be more commanding, continue to slide into a leadership role, because I have to be the communicator out there. I have to be commanding, and just every day trying to get better at that.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh likes what he has seen from Linderbaum and is impressed by his daily focus. Harbaugh has been around rookies who are very vocal, but he smiled when describing his interactions with Linderbaum.
“I would say Tyler is all ball,” Harbaugh said. “He doesn’t say a lot. I say, ‘Hi,’ to him, and sometimes he says, ‘Hi,’ back. Sometimes he’s in his center world thinking about blitzes.
“But, I think he’s handling it well. He doesn’t make very many mistakes, so far. That’s a big challenge. That’s going to be the rookie challenge all year, as far as the mental part of it. And then, he’s thinking about when the pads come on; he wants to make sure he holds his own in there, because those big defensive tackles are going to test him. We’ll see how he does.”
Linderbaum has lined up opposite monstrous defensive tackle Michael Pierce so far in training camp and said “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone like him, to be honest.”
Some of Linderbaum’s older teammates are helping him make the transition to the NFL, and already recognize the potential he has. He is the first center the Ravens have ever drafted in the first round, and the better he plays, the more effective the offensive line will be.
“I think every great lineman in NFL history – there’s always certain traits that stick out,” Zeitler said. “I think he has some of those talents. The way he runs is not like everyone else, so I think he has some great building blocks if he can put it all together, I think he’ll be one of the best in the league. He obviously has a long way to go, but I’m excited to work with him, and my goal for him, more than anything, is to make sure he reaches those heights.”
There’s an expression that talk is cheap, but for centers, communicating is important, especially if they recognize something before the snap that can improve blocking assignments. Linderbaum isn’t afraid to express himself, and as the rookie center gains more experience he’s confident he will find his voice.
“I have to say stuff, so I have to communicate,” Linderbaum said. “But at the end of the day, I’m a rookie; I still have to earn my stripes, and I’m, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ and just keep my head down and keep working until I prove myself.”