Ravens players were given two days off before they return to the team facility Tuesday and ramp up preparations for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
For the 53 players who survived a long training camp and two rounds of roster cuts, the time away provides a good opportunity to exhale, recover physically and then sharpen their focus for what lies ahead. For the members of the Ravens’ front office, it’s yet another chance to strengthen the roster and retain some players who the organization would have preferred holding onto anyway.
A day after cutting down their roster to the required 53 players, the Ravens stayed mostly quiet while other teams made a flurry of waiver claims. And the New England Patriots executed another trade, sending quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans for a conditional draft pick.
The Ravens weren’t awarded any waiver claims, but they did fill nine of 10 available practice squad spots, re-signing quarterback Keith Wenning, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, tight end Phillip Supernaw, center-guard Ryan Jensen, linebacker John Simon, defensive tackles A.J. Pataiali’i and Jamie Meder and cornerbacks Tramain Jacobs and Deji Olatoye.
Another cornerback who they were hoping to bring back, undrafted free agent Sammy Seamster, was claimed by the Miami Dolphins to be on their 53-man roster. The Indianapolis Colts also signed veteran guard-center A.Q. Shipley, who was cut by the Ravens on Saturday after he started nine games for them in 2013. The Colts traded Shipley to the Ravens last year.
But otherwise, the back end of the Ravens’ roster remained unchanged. The Ravens are still exploring different moves, including re-signing veteran cornerback Derek Cox. His contract was terminated Saturday but the Ravens likely will bring him back, according to a source.
“I like our team a lot,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. “I would go so far to say I love our team. I love the way they work. I love the way they treat one another. I love the way they bleed with one another. I believe in this football team.
“There’s no question in my mind that this team is destined for some very special things. But now you have to do it. Reputations aren’t built on what you say you are going to do — they’re built on what you do. And that’s our job to go do it.”
There are still some questions as to the makeup of the Ravens’ roster. The Ravens currently have seven wide receivers, and it’s unclear what roles Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson and Michael Campanaro (River Hill) will occupy. They opted to keep nine offensive linemen after cutting Shipley, leaving rookie fifth-round pick John Urschel as the top reserve guard.
“I was definitely surprised to get cut, being a veteran guy who can play two or three positions,” Shipley said in a telephone interview before boarding his flight from Baltimore to Indianapolis. “I thought I had a pretty good preseason. It came down to a numbers game. Fortunately for me, another situation arose. It's definitely a good feeling to go back to a place where there's a lot of familiar faces and an offense I was starting to learn before I got traded. I get to go back to my natural center position.
“It's a business, so I totally understand about keeping draft picks. I get it. John Urschel is a good kid. I'm happy for him. You don't hold grudges in this league. Everything comes full circle. You just got to be ready to roll with it. I had a lot of fun playing for the Ravens. It was great.”
On defense, the Ravens have six safeties and only four cornerbacks. Three of the cornerbacks — Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson — are dealing with injuries that kept them out of extensive stretches of the preseason. They also are keeping six inside linebackers and just five defensive linemen.
The current roster makeup, heavily influenced by a desire to strengthen the special teams units, certainly allows for some roster flexibility and maneuvering in the coming days.
One potential opportunity arose Sunday with the trade that sent Mallett to the Texans. As a result, the Texans waived quarterback Case Keenum, who started eight games for Houston last year and who was coached by current Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
The Ravens cut Wenning on Saturday, signaling that they are prepared to go with just two quarterbacks for the fifth straight season. They also have been pleased with the improvements that Joe Flacco’s longtime backup, Tyrod Taylor, has made this summer while operating in Kubiak’s West Coast offense.
However, Taylor is a free agent after this season, and the Ravens have discussed a longer-term backup plan behind Flacco. After a prolific college career at the University of Houston, Keenum, 26, spent parts of three seasons with the Texans, starting eight games and completing 137 of 253 passing attempts (54.2 percent) with nine touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Wenning, a sixth-round pick out of Ball State this year, also could be a future option, now that he cleared waivers and was signed to the practice squad. He’ll get the opportunity to continue his development this year behind Flacco and Taylor.
The Ravens also were pleased that they were able to keep Simon and Jensen, who were both 2013 draft picks, in the organization. The two were among the more higher-profile roster cuts Saturday.
NOTES: The suspensions of Ravens running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill officially began Saturday when both were placed on the reserve-suspended list. Rice will serve a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, while Hill is facing a six-game ban for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. … Several local standouts signed with teams Sunday. Fullback Kiero Small (Cardinal Gibbons) was signed to the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad after he was cut by the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, according to a source. Former Ravens outside linebacker Brandon Copeland (Gilman) signed with the Tennessee Titans' practice squad. ... Rookie offensive tackle Tavon Rooks (Woodlawn) was signed to the New Orleans Saints' practice squad.