Starters sit in fi­nal pre­sea­son game

West ap­pears to have played his way onto fi­nal ros­ter

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun Baltimore Sun re­porter Ed­ward Lee contributed to this ar­ti­cle. jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

NEW OR­LEANS — While New Or­leans Saints coach Sean Pay­ton played many of his front-line play­ers as promised Thurs­day night, Ravens coach John Har­baugh ad­hered to his prac­tice of play­ing no starters in the fi­nal pre­sea­son game.

Sev­eral prom­i­nent Ravens didn’t even travel with the team to New Or­leans.

Some Ravens weren’t in uni­form, some weren’t even at the Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome and oth­ers were in uni­form but weren’t sched­uled to play. Fall­ing into one of those three camps were quar­ter­back Joe Flacco; run­ning backs Justin Forsett and Ter­rance West; wide re­ceivers Steve Smith Sr., Ka­mar Aiken and Mike Wal­lace; cen­ter Jeremy Zut­tah; right guard Mar­shal Yanda; start­ing tack­les Ron­nie Stan­ley and Rick Wagner; lineback­ers Ter­rell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr and Al­bert McClel­lan; and de­fen­sive backs Jimmy Smith, Sha­reece Wright, Lar­dar­ius Webb and Eric Wed­dle.

The Ravens also held out an ex­ten­sive group of in­jured play­ers. That group con­sisted of run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon (knee); tight ends Maxx Wil­liams (back) and Den­nis Pitta (fin­ger); guard John Urschel ( bruise); out­side line­backer Za’Dar­ius Smith (an­kle); nose tackle Bran­don Wil­liams (undis­closed); and de­fen­sive backs Ken­drick Lewis (undis­closed), Matt Elam (knee) and Jer­raud Pow­ers (undis­closed). West gets nod: West (North­west­ern High, Tow­son Uni­ver­sity) en­tered train­ing camp firmly on the ros­ter bub­ble. He was be­lieved to be be­hind Forsett, Buck Allen and Dixon on the depth chart, and bat­tling the likes of Lorenzo Tali­a­ferro and Trent Richardson for a fourth tail­back spot there was no guar­an­tee the Ravens would em­ploy.

How­ever, while Tali­a­ferro and Richardson dropped out of the com­pe­ti­tion be­cause of in­juries and Allen has strug­gled this sum­mer, West has ap­par­ently earned a ros­ter spot and didn’t even need the fi­nal pre­sea­son game to do it. West warmed up be­fore the game and was in uni­form, but he didn’t play early as un­drafted free agent Stephen Hous­ton han­dled the load.

West en­tered Thurs­day sec­ond on the Ravens in the pre­sea­son with 25 rushes for 101 yards and two touch­downs to go along with three catches for 25 yards. It ap­pears he’ll be part of the Sept. 11 reg­u­lar-sea­son Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, top, is hit by Saints cor­ner­back Ken Craw­ley dur­ing the first quar­ter. Tight ends Maxx Wil­liams and Den­nis Pitta were in­jured and did not play. game plan against the Buf­falo Bills. Forsett pitches in: Forsett wasn’t in uni­form, but he made good use of his time while he was in Louisiana.

In part­ner­ship with United Way, Forsett spent part of the day in Ba­ton Rouge, do­nat­ing his time and money to re­lief ef­forts for the flood-rav­aged city. Pro­longed pe­ri­ods of rain and storms in south­ern Louisiana last month left 13 peo­ple dead and de­stroyed thou­sands of homes and busi­nesses.

The Red Cross called the floods the coun­try’s worst na­tional dis­as­ter since Su­per­storm Sandy four years ago.

Forsett toured ar­eas of the city and gave a 12-year-old boy his foot­ball cleats.

“Been down here in Ba­ton Rouge for a cou­ple of hours and I can say one thing for sure the peo­ple down here are amaz­ing & re­silient!!” Forsett wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count.

In Fe­bru­ary, Forsett and for­mer Ravens team­mate Tor­rey Smith (Mary­land) trav­eled to Flint, Mich., to de­liver wa­ter and shower wipes as the city dealt with a wa­ter cri­sis. Grow­ing pains: As a rookie sec­ond-round pick, line­backer Ka­malei Cor­rea might feel se­cure about his stand­ing with the team this fall. But the tran­si­tion from Boise State to the Ravens has been a vis­i­ble re­minder for the line­backer of the chasm be­tween the col­lege ranks and the NFL.

“There’s al­ways room for im­prove­ment, and in my eyes, I al­ways have to get bet­ter,” Cor­rea said last week. “It’s re­ally been a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence just know­ing that you’re not as good as most peo­ple who have been play­ing in the NFL for a while.” End zone: Ravens sec­ond-year de­fen­sive line­man Carl Davis went in the locker room with an an­kle in­jury early in the first quar­ter. … Quar­ter­back Jer­rod John­son, who was let go by the Ravens on Mon­day as part of their ros­ter cut­down to 75 play­ers, was signed Thurs­day by the Dal­las Cow­boys. ... Thurs­day marked the 20th an­niver­sary of the Ravens’ first-ever game, a 19-14 vic­tory over the Oak­land Raiders at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium. … Paul Kruger, the for­mer Ravens and Cleve­land Browns line­backer who signed with the Saints on Wed­nes­day, did not play. … Quar­ter­back Drew Brees started and played one drive, lead­ing the Saints to a field goal against a Ravens de­fense con­sist­ing mostly con­sist­ing of sec­ond- and third-team­ers. pre­sea­son fi­nale, for many, was about rest­ing. While Saints coach Sean Pay­ton played most of his starters, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Drew Brees, who led New Or­leans to a field goal in his lone drive, Har­baugh didn’t use a sin­gle player who is pro­jected to start.

Prom­i­nent starters, such as quar­ter­back Joe Flacco, wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. and rush line­backer Ter­rell Suggs, didn’t even travel with the team to New Or­leans.

That set the stage for many of the Ravens’ “bub­ble” play­ers to get one fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to make an im­pres­sion.

De­fen­sive tackle Michael Pierce, an un­drafted rookie out of Sam­ford, cer­tainly made good on his op­por­tu­nity. Cap­ping a strong pre­sea­son, the big de­fen­sive line­man beat his blocker and strip-sacked Saints backup quar­ter­back Luke McCown. Pierce pounced onto the ball in the end zone, the touch­down giv­ing the Ravens a 13-6 lead.

The Ravens are deep at de­fen­sive line, but Pierce’s per­for­mance all sum­mer, cou­pled with Carl Davis’ an­kle in­jury, could prompt the team to find him a spot.

Keenan Reynolds made his first NFL catch, a 2-yard re­cep­tion in which he was driven to the turf by vet­eran cor­ner­back Cort­land Fin­negan. Reynolds, the for­mer Navy quar­ter­back who is try­ing to make the Ravens as a re­ceiver and re­turner, ap­pears to be no bet­ter than eighth on the depth chart at his po­si­tion.

Con­tin­u­ing his strong pre­sea­son, Jeremy But­ler made three more catches for 34 yards, and if he hadn’t played his way onto the ros­ter al­ready, he might have Thurs­day night.

The pre­sea­son now com­plete, the Ravens will have to cut their ros­ter from 75 to 53 by 4 p.m. Satur­day. The team typ­i­cally makes eight to 10 moves the day af­ter the fi­nal pre­sea­son game and the rest of them just ahead of the 4 p.m. dead­line.

What­ever they de­cide to do, sev­eral rook­ies and vet­er­ans will likely be filled with anx­i­ety in the hours ahead. Per­ri­man, on the other hand, was prob­a­bly more re­lieved than any­thing else.

BILL FEIG/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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