- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) A seldom-used guard just two years ago, Mike Flynn now stands front and center on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens' offensive line.
There are several reasons why the Ravens moved Flynn from right guard to center this season after Jeff Mitchell, who handled the snapping chores last year, signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers.
Consider:
After Mitchell injured a knee in last year's season opener at Pittsburgh, Flynn flipped from guard to center. The revamped line helped produce 119 yards rushing by Priest Holmes and allowed only one sack in a 16-0 victory.
Subbing for an injured Mitchell in October, Flynn played well in his first NFL start at center against the Washington Redskins, then centered a line against the Tennessee Titans that amassed 24 first downs and ran a whopping 80 plays.
Flynn is one of only 10 returning players who started every game for the Super Bowl champs last year, including all four playoff games.
His durability, persistence and work ethic have served him well.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder first joined the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1997 and was cut in training camp. After stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, Flynn returned to Baltimore that December.
He has since established himself as a leader on a unit that includes one of the league's best tackle tandems, Jonathan Ogden and newcomer Leon Searcy from the Jaguars. Flynn can't match their credentials on the field, but he takes a back seat to no one when it comes to locker room antics.
"When we're in the O-line room, I'm one of the guys cracking jokes," Flynn said. "Sometimes, I'll take pictures of people and cut them out of the paper and put them on other bodies and put that on the bulletin board."
It's all a part of being comfortable with his environment.
"You can see the way he works within the group, he's the one who will lead the practical jokes," coach Brian Billick said. "He's sort of taken on that leader's mantle."
Trying to make his mark in the NFL wasn't always a laughing matter for Flynn. On the first day of his first training camp in 1997, Flynn seemed alone and distant to his new teammates, a squad already feeling the malaise of the franchise's maiden 4-12 season in Baltimore.
Worse, Flynn didn't know anybody in Baltimore and had only one visitor in training camp, his college coach at Maine. The visit lasted one day.
"He was here and gone like that," Flynn recalled, "and the rest of that year was a real tough time, too, getting cut and going to Tampa Bay and getting cut and then again [in Jacksonville]. When I got back here, I thought I'd give it one more shot."
Learning the center position helped make him more appealing to the coaches.
"I like center, actually," Flynn said. "It's a position where I can run. I'm not as powerful as a lot of guards in the league, so I can use my quickness a little bit more."
Four years ago, he was cut three times. Now, Flynn has a Super Bowl ring and is the center of attention on the defending champs' offensive line.
"With a great attitude and a willingness to work hard, he's made himself into one of the better players," line coach Jim Colletto said. "It takes a lot of perseverance and patience to succeed."
Notes Ozzie Newsome received a title change: He's no longer the vice president of player personnel, but rather senior vice president of football operations. Newsome also received a salary boost, but his job description remains unchanged… . Cornerback Gary Baxter did not practice yesterday morning because of a strained hamstring. Billick hopes the second-round draft pick will be back for today's scrimmage, said it it's more likely Baxter will return next week.

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