The Baltimore Ravens early Sunday began work toward their final preseason game, as the team announced several cuts in attempt to get down to the NFL-mandated 75-man roster limit on Tuesday.
After 12 roster cuts that included tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Tommy Streeter, and G Ramon Harewood, the Ravens trimmed their roster to 77 players and only have a few moves to make before preparing for the St. Louis Rams on Thursday.
It was definitely a more quiet practice Sunday at Owings Mills, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh obviously had a very somber character after practice as news came down about several of his players being given their walking papers and forced to find work elsewhere.
“They were great guys…guys we were sorry to let go,” Harbaugh said. “Guys that did a great job, and most of them have a great future in the National Football League. If you look at a lot of these guys, I would expect them to get another opportunity soon, or maybe even back here down the road.”
Harbaugh singled out LB Bryan Hall, who lost 50+ in the off-season in his switch from DL to ILB, and former Towson WR Gerrard Sheppard as guys who really opened his eyes during their short tenures as Ravens.
“Sometimes you just look at the names in the paper and think they’re just names, but these are guys with dreams and aspirations who worked really hard.”
“I think of Gerrard Sheppard…he just did a great job for us…really talented. Hard working. Good person. No matter what he’s going to do in life, he’ll be amazingly successful.”
In regards to Bryan Hall, Harbaugh said they offered the news to him now as opposed to later to help his chances at making another NFL squad.
“He really played well. It was a tough call. Part of the idea there is that here is a guy that’s been around awhile. It’s going to be tough around here with the numbers, but we feel like he has a chance to make it somewhere, so if we do it this week as opposed to next week, maybe we give him an opportunity to do that.”
DL Haloti Ngata, DL Arthur Jones, WR Deonte Thompson (ankle), and LB Pernell McPhee were not out on the practice field for the session available to the media.
Thomspon has been out since the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons with a left foot and ankle spain, while the injury concerns for Jones are not known at this time.
McPhee has battled knee soreness over the off-season and training camp.
Harbaugh said that Ngata was dealing with a personal issue off the field and was excused from practice, and Thompson will be re-evaluated Monday.
With the injury lingering, you wonder if the severity of the sprain will cause the Ravens to make a roster move with Thompson that would put him out for the year.
Joining those four off the practice field were TE Dennis Pitta (hip), G Ryan Jensen (foot), LB Jameel McClain (back/neck), and DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (ACL), who did not participate.
Tight End Ed Dickson was running crisp, clean routes with quarterback Joe Flacco in practice as he attempts to return to 100% from his hamstring tear that has cost him much of the last three weeks.
He worked on his cuts with fellow veteran tight end Dallas Clark, who after the release of Shiancoe earlier today, will form a nice 1-2 punch at the position and provide several options for Flacco to complete passes.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor returned to the practice field after leaving Thursday’s 34-27 loss to the Panthers with a concussion, but third-stringer Caleb Hanie and the newly-signed Dayne Crist took most of the reps in practice behind Taylor.
Harbaugh said they will monitor his status closely.
“That’s something we deal with very carefully. I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Wide receiver shuffle-
Harbaugh was also asked about the continued competition in camp for the Ravens wide receiver corps, with seven players remaining on the roster and all of them seeing first-team reps at some point in training camp and preseason.
WR Torrey Smith is a lock to start and Pro Bowl KR Jacoby Jones will see action as well, but behind those two the situation still appears to be in a flux.
Veteran WR Brandon Stokley, a former Raven who resigned with the team on August 11th, caught three passes for 43 yards on Thursday and looked to be very comfortable with quarterback Joe Flacco despite the short time in Baltimore.
“Brandon played really well. He did a nice job on all downs, but especially third down. I think he’s playing at a high level.”
Behind those three are third-year players Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams, and rookies Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown.
Brown, the 6’5 rookie out of Georiga who suffered an ACL injury back in November, has wowed coaches and fans alike with his size and poise, including coming up with a 27-yard touchdown from Flacco Thursday night.
When asked if Brown and the 7th-rounder Mellette were in the mix to make the roster and contribute immediately, Harbaugh wouldn’t disclose what their role would be but said all 53-players are active on his team.
“If you’re on the roster, don’t have you have an active role in the rotation?”, Harbaugh asked. “I would say that if you’re on the 53-man roster, you’re here to play.”
Doss, who has been the recipient of a lot of criticism for a lack of focus and consistency during his time as a Raven, spent a few minutes with the Jugs machine to work on his hands after practice as the rest of the team went into the facility to lift.
But Harbaugh did admit that they’re running out of time with all these guys to make a decision, and that Thursday’s finale will be one of the final evaluations.
“It’s a hurried evaluation. That’s what it is. We’re going to see if we’ve seen enough. First impressions are positive, and we’ll see where it goes this week.”
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