Final Cuts Leave Ravens With Seven Receivers, Four Corners

Posted on August 30, 2014 by Joe Platania

JOHN HARBAUGH SAYS TEAM "DESTINED FOR GREAT THINGS"

OWINGS MILLS -- While pro football teams are being built, bonds and friendships are constantly forged and severed.

Neither is easy, considering what's at stake. 

Fifth-round draft pick John Urschel, who made the Ravens' 53-man active roster as a backup at both guard spots and at center, can attest to that. 

John Urschel

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

Urschel and veteran guard/center A.Q. Shipley have grown close during the past few months, as the pair battled for spots on an offensive line that is sure to be the centerpiece of a rejuvenated offense.

Indeed, the line's contribution was noticeable; Baltimore led the NFL by averaging 171 rushing yards per game during the four-game August slate. The Ravens were the AFC's only unbeaten team during the preseason.

However, Shipley became one of 22 Ravens that were sent packing after final cuts.

"He's a Penn State guy, I'm [also] a Penn State guy," Urschel said of Shipley. "... The guy didn't have to help me, but he helped me every single day.

"I feel what has helped me is my versatility, and it's also just about getting used to the speed of the game."

The speed and intensity that football demands will manifest itself for Urschel and the rest of the team as the regular-season schedule comes calling.

After Aug. 30's light practice, the Ravens will have Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 off after two workouts conducted at regular-season pace by head coach John Harbaugh.

"We are ready, ready for the season," Harbaugh said. "We practiced barely 10 or 12 hours back from our flight [from New Orleans]. We'll give 'em a couple of days to get them off their legs. Then they'll come back [Sept. 2] ready to pop out of their skin.

" ... I believe in this football team. I think this team is destined for great things, but we have to go do it."

Like Urschel, Harbaugh is mindful of the players that are getting left behind.

"It's always challeging," Harbaugh said. "Every year, it's the same for me. ... When you get in front of the team, you have to put yourself in their shoes."

The challenge didn't stop with two days worth of meetings among Harbaugh, the assistant coaches and the team brass.

Final roster decisions were so tough that the team actually took the field with two more players than they would be allowed to keep after the cutdown deadline.

Thanks in part to the release of five players Aug. 29, there were some position units - -the offensive and defensive lines in particular -- that had been cut sufficiently. 

Injury and depth concerns at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back had likely forced the team's front office to deliberate more cautiously than in recent years, when the final roster had been decided long before the deadline.

Indeed, trade rumors had circulated --and will likely continue --around many of the players the Ravens would have otherwise wanted to keep, either on the active roster or the newly-expanded 10-man practice squad, which can begin formation at noon Aug. 31.

But the team has declared that it is willing to carry seven wide receivers.. 

That includes seventh-round draft pick Michael Campanaro, as well as second-year pro Kamar Aiken and third-year prospect Deonte Thompson, who scored a touchdown during each of the last three preseason games.

On the offensive line, nine players made the cut as the Ravens have attempted to get younger and more athletic to properly execute the zone-blocking West Coast scheme.

Shipley did not make the team, and neither did 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen, who was tried out at three different positions before his release.

However, there are two rookies, Urschel and tackle James Hurst, who are part of the unit. 

Urschel is one of seven members of the nine-man draft class to make the team, the exception being fourth-round defensive end Brent Urban (lost for season with torn ACL) and sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning.

Principal tight ends Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore were the only ones to survive the cut at that position.

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint's big game in New Orleans didn't spare him from the ax, as running backs Pierce, Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro all made the roster.

Only five defensive linemen are currently on the roster, as rookies Derrick Hopkins, Jamie Meder, Levi Brown and A.J. Pataiali'I were released.

Ten linebackers are currently on the team, but, just as with Toussaint, John Simon's ball-hawking efforts in New Orleans didn't spare the 2013 fourth-rounder from getting released.

Ten defensive backs still held spots on the roster, with rookie cornerbacks Sammy Seamster and Tramain Jacobs being let go. 

Veteran corners Derek Cox and Dominique Franks, signed after a minicamp tryout in June, were the last two players released, leaving four cover men on the team. Cox could return to the roster later in an unspecified procedural move.

That indicates the Ravens feel optimistic injured corners Asa Jackson, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb --all of whom practiced Aug. 30 --will be ready for Week One.

The Ravens placed running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill on the suspended list for their respective two- and six-game suspensions. 

The terms of Rice's suspension dictate that he can no longer be at the Under Armour Performance Center and must begin serving his suspension after the cutdown deadline.

Also, nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery) was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, rendering him unavailable for the first six games. 

Wideout Jeremy Butler became the fifth Raven on injured reserve after incurring a sprained shoulder.

Joe Platania is in his 21st season covering professional football.

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