Welcome to Bubble Week, otherwise known as the final days before the Ravens have to cut their roster from 90 players to 53.
It's always a dramatic week. Why? The math is tough. I'd even call it brutal. Most of the 53 spots are claimed. Only a couple are undetermined, and as many as a dozen players are vying to claim them. Seeing who'll win out is, yes, dramatic stuff with on-field ramifications.
Questions abound. Will they keep three quarterbacks? Four running backs? Six wide receivers? How many offensive and defensive linemen? How many pass rushers and defensive backs?
The questions are all related. It's important to understand that. When the answer to one question is yes, it impacts the others. For instance, if you keep three quarterbacks, four running backs and six receivers, you're going to pay a price with limited depth elsewhere. So you probably aren't going to keep all those skill players.
Basically, the front office must complete a jigsaw puzzle by Saturday's cutdown deadline.
Who is actually on the Ravens' bubble? I would identify quarterback Trace McSorley, running backs Kenneth Dixon and Tyler Ervin, receivers Michael Floyd, Seth Roberts and Jaleel Scott, offensive linemen Greg Senat, Jermaine Eluemunor and Patrick Mekari, defensive lineman Zach Seiler, linebacker Shane Ray and defensive backs Maurice Canady and Brynden Trawick.
Those are guys who could make the 53 or, well, not make it. Some have a better chance than others. Some could fall short and still land on the practice squad if other teams don't claim them.
I'll offer my roster projection Thursday night, following the final preseason game. As we head toward that, here are several observations:
+ The Ravens tend to keep six wide receivers, which means Floyd, Roberts and Scott probably are competing for two jobs. The first two are more established, but Scott might have the best shot. The Ravens hope to develop a young corps of receivers. (Gives them fewer future concerns/decisions.) Scott, in his second year, has really looked the part with his size and speed.
+ McSorley has improved a lot since he was drafted, so much that I'm pretty sure the Ravens don't want to lose him. They might be able to sneak him through waivers and put him on the practice squad, but they also might not want to take that gamble with a quarterback.
+ Bradley Bozeman and Ben Powers would provide depth behind a starting offensive line of Ronnie Stanley, James Hurst, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda and Orlando Brown Jr. (Yes, I have Hurst at left guard until another option presents itself.) That means Senat, Eluemunor and Mekari are probably competing for one job. It's a hard race to handicap, but if Mekari loses, it could end the Ravens' 15-year run of having an undrafted rookie free agent make the 53.
+ I can't imagine the Ravens keeping five running backs, let alone four. They usually keep three. But Ervin is an NFL-caliber punt returner, and Dixon has the kind of talent you don't want to give up. Very tough calls.
I can't tell if Andrew Luck's stunning retirement is truly controversial. Between social media chatter and the proliferation of outlets and voices, any news generates such a roar of noise these days that it can be hard to know what's real.
But if Luck's decision is controversial, it shouldn't be.
He is, or was, a football player. His injuries mounted. The list is staggering. Look it up. And more were coming.
Injuries stole the joy Luck derived from playing. It's his life. His body. Yes, he's still young, not even 30, and able to carry his team when healthy. But he'd reached the limits of what he could tolerate.
Watching his tears flow at his press conference, you knew it was an agonizing decision. Which means, by the way, that he was in agony.
Those tears amounted to a peak behind the curtain, to the physical challenges NFL players routinely live with. They play a rugged game, deal with pain and issues that fans and the media don't see or understand.
You might think you understand, or that it's somehow something you can relate to. Not the case.
The fans who booed him should be ashamed. Luck isn't a quitter. He sacrificed his body – and some of his soul, it seems – for their entertainment. But the sport he'd always loved was no longer enjoyable. Meanwhile, he is oh-so bright, with plenty of money and alternatives. He is fortunate to have sprung from a supportive background.
It isn't controversial. Luck just made a decision he has every right to make.