Roster Cuts Looming


At the conclusion of Friday's brief practice following the Ravens preseason-ending win over the Atlanta Falcons, there was a palpable sense of trepidation lingering in the locker room.

As players like linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs and quarterback Joe Flacco went through their typical routines and joked with teammates, others walked out wondering if they will even wear a Ravens uniform again, let alone that of any other NFL club.

Teams must cut down to a final 53-man roster by Saturday at 6 p.m., and it is never an easy task.

That goes for not only coaches and personnel staffers who make the decisions, but also those players that have been clawing and scratching all spring and summer to earn a job.

With a team as deep as the Ravens' at certain roster spots, the battles have been fierce and intriguing.

"It's going to be extremely hard," said head coach John Harbaugh after the Falcons victory. "We have more than 53 good players on this team. We have a lot more than 53 good players on this team. If we're talking about the practice squad, it's going to be hard to get down to 61 for the practice squad.

"I think that's a tribute to the players themselves and a tribute to our coaches and personnel staff. It's going to be an interesting two days of conversations."

Cornerback Evan Oglesby is one of those prospects that may have played his way into a more prominent role in the conversation.

In Atlanta, Oglesby was a defensive star, totaling four tackles, three pass deflections and an interception. Oglesby also had the Ravens' hit of the game when he laid out receiver Robert Ferguson in the third quarter and nearly took Ferguson's helmet off. On the same series, Oglesby made a tackle for a 1-yard loss.

Even so, Oglesby has been cut by three different teams, including the Ravens in 2007. He knows how tough Saturday can be on someone that hasn't gone through it before.

"I prepared well for the game and just went out there and played with my technique," said the 27-year-old. "It was Raven football. I was trying to play freely.

"You have to think that way and put your best foot forward. I don't have any regrets, and that's how you have to approach this. You just sit back and wait for the phone to ring, one way or another."

A major part of Oglesby's chances will come down to how many cornerbacks the Ravens want to keep.

Adding a player at one position group means that you take a player away from another. For example, keeping two kickers at the beginning of last season was a factor in limiting the Ravens to the three tight ends they retained.

The Ravens will likely not have two kickers in the locker room for 2009, as Steve Hauschka can kick off and kick field goals and essentially solidified his role with a solid showing in Atlanta, including a 46-yard field goal.

But Baltimore also boasts a very talented group of linebackers and defensive linemen, which could make things tight for the corners and safeties, a position that has Oglesby, Frank Walker, who has recently turned in two rough performances, and Derrick Martin trying to come off the "bubble."

As many as six defensive linemen could make it, with Brandon McKinney and Kelly Talavou both hoping to stick around. The Ravens' linebacking corps goes 12 deep, but Antwawn Barnes, Prescott Burgess, Dannell EllerbeWilliams Van De Steeg and fourth-round draft pick Jason Phillips are battling for the few available spots.

All want a chance to continue the tradition of Ravens linebackers that was started with 10-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis.

"There's a lot of talent in this whole corps," Phillips said. "Ray sets that standard, but Tavares [Gooden] and Jameel McClain are guys that have carried that on recently. They fly to the ball. There's a whole group of guys here that can play football.

"I'm just waiting, and it's a lot of anxiety, to be honest. You hope that you put in everything that you need in the back, and it's enough to make the team."

Offensively, the Ravens know they are set at quarterback and on the interior of the offensive line, but tackle remains an issue. With Oniel Cousins and Joe Reitz as the primary backups to Jared Gaither and Michael Oher, the Ravens could seek more depth when all teams announce their cuts.

"From my perspective, we have a very good group," said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "I think added depth, everyone would love added depth, but that's not always possible for whatever reason – salary cap, roster spot, whatever it would be. Right now, I like the guys we have, and we can win with the guys we've got."

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Baltimore will keep five wideouts, like the Ravens did last year at this time, or stick with four in Derrick Mason, Mark ClaytonKelley Washington and Demetrius Williams.

Justin Harper has been inconsistent and Yamon Figurs hasn't shown up in the few opportunities he's had as a pure receiver.

For all the players who left the Ravens' training facility Friday and will not return until Monday morning, the next 24 hours will be tense.

Whether it comes down to numbers or simply talent, the 75 men leaving team headquarters had months to show that they belonged.

"The thing I think is really important to understand, and our players have to understand, you're not going to back your way onto this football team," said Harbaugh. "You have to earn your way onto this football team. There are too many good players here."

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